Botanical Art

Petrified People

We have become petrified people.

‘Pilgrim At the Eternal Gate” by A. Polasek. Bronze, 1924.

We are a people frozen by fear. Immobilized by the specter of illness and death.

This paralysis is fed hourly and daily by the media with death tolls, today’s incidence of Covid-19 in your zip code, and new “hot spots” to avoid. Retreating in fear is the latest indoor sport.

My wife and I just came back from an excellent weekend away. We drove to Winter Park, stayed in a bed and breakfast, visited museums, ate at local restaurants, took in the local color, and came back satisfied and refreshed. Partly because of the hospitality and beauty we took in but mostly because we felt free.

Yes, the influenza is real and serious and we are all at risk. So we took the usual precautions of frequent hand cleaning and respectfully wore our face masks where we got close to other people. But as we walked along an open, grassy park, a man 20′ away looked at my bare face and pointed to his mask, suggesting I should be wearing one too. Back off dude, I’m not taking medical advice from a stranger.

“Do you fear death?” spouts Davy Jones.

We expected the usual wait time when we arrived at the restaurant at 6:00 PM but only about 10% of the tables were taken. It never got busy. I had to ask. “Miss, your food is delicious, your prices are reasonable and your service is great. So, where is everybody?”

She wondered the same thing. There was an announcement that day that state-wide, all people should wear a mask, indoors and out. There were four reservations that night that were canceled.

Cappuccino Chocolate cake.

Rather than operate at reduced capacity some business remained closed until further notice. To our advantage, traffic was light, there were no lines and prices were right. I’m not sure we are ready to fly anywhere yet but our two day excursion was a happy, liberating experience.

Plant book

David Fairchild

David Fairchild Controlling Pests

“The World Was My Garden” published in 1938 is an extraordinary travelogue and history lesson written by David Fairchild. It’s remarkable that this man was able to clearly capture scenes, names and dates beginning with his birth in 1869 at Michigan State College.

Yes, plants and places are central to Fairchild’s 494 page book but his discoveries and people he encountered over the years enrich the story. He does not drop names for fame’s sake but introduces us to Alexander Graham Bell (before marrying his daughter), the Wright brothers and stained glass master Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Bombax Bloom

There is something about a rose petal in quality and color that is seldom equaled by any other flower, and it is little wonder that hybrid roses have become so much a part of the life of human beings. In fact, the words “garden” and “roses” seem indissolubly connected in the mind.

I once said as much to Louis C. Tiffany as we were standing one brilliant morning in Miami, gazing at the gorgeous red flowers of the Bombax malabaricum. I complained somewhat peevishly that Northern people who settled in South Florida insisted on spending time and money growing roses, and I could not wean them from the idea, even when they saw gorgeous trees like the Bombax.

“Don’t you know,” he said, “that the vast majority of people are influenced more by their memory of flower gardens, than by their appreciation of the beautiful? To most people a garden means roses, and they will always try to grow them even in Florida, where they may have to plant them every year.”

David Fairchild, “The World Was My Garden” 1938.
Detail of one of the many stained glass windows by Tiffany at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida.

What a pleasure to read about discussions and thoughts of great minds who influenced gardening and art.


Jasmine or Not?

The name Jasmine is applied to many plants with green leaves and white fragrant flowers. So when you go shopping for one you will encounter many options. Here are 13 plants that go by the name of Jasmine in South Florida.

Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
Confederate Jasmine trained up a trellis.

Confederate Jasmine is a vining plant that can be used as a ground cover or trained to climb a trellis or a fence. It has twining tendrils that actively reach out for the next object to wrap around.

Confederate Jasmine
Downy Jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum)

Downy Jasmine gets its name from the dull underside of the leaves. It’s often used as a wide shrub but it’s long, arching branches will allow it to climb upward and outward.

Downy Jasmine going up.
Shining Jasmine (Jasminum nitidum)

The United States Department of Agriculture officially calls this one Angelwing Jasmine. In the landscape/nursery trade we call it Star Jasmine. Jasminum nitidum has waxy, deep green leaves and arching branches, often used as a shrub. The thin white petals are mildly fragrant.

Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata)
Orange Jasmine trained as a tree or standard.

The Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) earns it’s name by smelling very much like a citrus blossom. No wonder, they are in the same family (Rutacea). This upright shrub has medium green, compound leaves and is often used as a blooming hedge or trained as a tree form. An improved variety ‘Lakeview’ has deep green leaves and a more compact form. Orange Jasmine’s use is discouraged because it can host an insect (psyllid) that could transmit diseases to citrus trees.

Pinwheel Jasmine (Tabernaemontana divaricata)

This upright shrub goes by many names: Crape or Crepe Jasmine, Pinwheel Jasmine. The glossy leaves and spring flowering habit make it a useful shrub. The double flowered variety is a mouthful; Tabernaemontana divaricata ‘Flore Pleno’. Double flowered Crape Jasmine is accurate but I’ve heard it called Southern Gardenia.

T. divaricata ‘Flore Pleno’

The Night Blooming Jasmine is an upright shrub whose small flowers pack a large fragrance. One shrub is enough to impart perfume to a backyard. Watch for leaf-chewing caterpillars who also work at night.

Carolina Jessamine (Jasmine) (Gelsemium sempervirens). Photo by Monrovia Nursery.

Here is the state flower of South Carolina, the Carolina Jessamine. This woody vine will fill a trellis with evergreen leaves and sweet smelling bugles in the spring. Friendly warning, the flowers are poisonous so keep out of reach of children. Even touching them can cause an allergic reaction.

The Asian Jasmine (Trachelspermum asiaticum) rarely flowers. It is a common ground cover often used as a lawn replacement in the shade. Once established it can be mowed at about 3-4″ once a year during it’s growing season. It will grow back thicker.

With new plantings, prepare for frustration because it will spend months on root growth first, then slowly yield new leaves. A catchy poem describes it’s establishment: The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third it leaps.

florida gardening flowers

Four O’clocks at 8:00

FNGLA IFAS University of Florida

Don’t Feed Your Weeds

Topdressing with fertilizer is a bad idea. Sub-dressing is superior.

This idea was demonstrated clearly at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center this week. Dr. Chris Marble, weed specialist, showed us many trials with pre-emergent herbicides and how various mulches affected weed growth. He concluded by showing how fertilizer placement makes weed growth worse.

Various ways to apply slow release fertilizer to potted plants

The traditional way to apply slow release fertilizer is by sprinkling it on the surface of the soil. But some is lost by sunlight degradation and more can be lost by heavy rains. Another problem is that it feeds weeds and encourages their growth.

Fertilizer 3″ deep fed the crop but not the weeds.

So, a wiser way to apply fertilizer is to fill the pot about half way up with soil, apply fertilizer, then fill the pot the rest of the way, then plant the new plant. The new plants roots will come in contact with the fertile area but the nutrients are out of reach of any weed seedlings.

agriculture hemp

Hemp and Hops

The University of Florida holds one of the few “Industrial Hemp” licenses and is growing non-hallucinogenic cannabis in various locations as a pilot project. We visited one location in Wimauma, Florida at the annual Agriculture Expo this month.

Among the many speakers were experts from the departments of agriculture in Kentucky and North Carolina who told us of their experiences and market update.

florida gardening flowers

November Beauty

In South Florida we endure the summer so we can enjoy the winter. November temps average 50’s at night and 80’s in the day, lately. Here is a stroll around our yard.


Colorful Walls and Beds

Caladiums are at their peak season of beauty now. A typical hot, wet summer is ideal for these shade-lovers. Classic Caladiums has done a excellent job at planning, planting, and maintaining these plants to showcase their unique features.


Spider Mites

Most insects are visible. But these plant-feeding mites are nearly microscopic. Their feeding on leaves can be evident before you see them. Mites damage individual leaf cells causing an off-color. Leaves can also pucker. By the time you see webbing, it is an infestation.

Flower Trials FNGLA

Immersed in Color

The Florida Flower Trials were a beautiful learning experience. On Wednesday, May 15th, we started at the Orange County Cooperative Extension office in Orlando.

Surrounding the bedding plant trials were many other gardens;

Guest speakers continued to inspire and educate landscapers, growers and retailers;