Apples are almost as much a traditional part of American cold weather holidays as turkey and cranberries. Enjoyed out-of-hand, in pies, cobblers, crisps, cakes, savory dishes and dried, or as apple juice, cider or applejack, they indicate why Americans consume about 25 pounds of apples a year. Apples also feature in holiday décor. My mother piled bowls with beautiful apples including the rough skinned yellow-brown russets, which we sold to Purdy’s, a local cider mill. And she wrapped our curving staircase with garlands fashioned of evergreens to which she attached crabapples and kumquats. Many people think apples are native to America, but their origins lie in the lofty mountains of far off


A mulch layer around trees, shrubs, and planted beds provides many benefits. In areas that are difficult to mow, irrigate, or otherwise maintain, use mulch to replace turf or groundcovers. Also consider placing mulch in shady areas where many plants don’t grow well. Mulch is a wonderful addition to any landscape, because it: • Buffers soil temperature; keeps soils and plant roots warmer in winter and cooler in summer. • Helps maintain soil moisture. Mulch slows evaporation and reduces water needs of plants. Properly applied mulch encourages moisture retention and accents the landscape. • Inhibits weed germination and growth. • Adds beauty. Mulch gives planting beds a neat and uniform ap

Container on Patio

Planter Idea: This lovely container has it all: crotons, lantana as a spiller, tall feathery ornamental grass, and peeking out from the back, deep purple ornamental pepper.


Start sprouting sweet potatoes: Toothpicks, a healthy tuber and a jar of water are all you need to get going. Stick three or four toothpicks into a sweet potato about 1/3 of the way down from the end with the little eyes. Position the potato in a glass or jar filled with water so at least half is submerged. In a few weeks, sprouts will appear. When they get 2-3” long, break them off and stick them into some soil. They’ll root and the potato will continue making new sprouts, sometimes for months. By the end of February, you ought to have plenty of little vines to plant. Flowers: Alyssum, baby's breath, bacopa, begonia, bush daisy, calendula, California poppy, candytuft, carnation, chrysanthem

What to Do in September

Ornamental plants: Fertilize plants that show signs of deficiencies. Rapid growth and leaching rains may result in nutrient deficiencies in some plants. See: Fertilization and Irrigation Needs for Florida Lawns and Landscapes ( Perennials and bulbs: Divide and replant perennials and bulbs that have grown too large or need rejuvenation. Add organic matter to new planting areas and monitor water needs during establishment. See: Propagation of Landscape Plants ( Citrus: Fertilize citrus with a balanced fertilizer either this month or in October. If the weather has been rainy, do not use soluble nitrogen as rains will leach it from th

What to Plant in September

Trees - all varieties Shrubs – most varieties Flowers – Refresh summer beds Bedding Plants - ageratum, coleus, celosia, zinnia, wax begonia, alyssum, calendula, cleome, cornflower, dianthus, gaillardia, hollyhock, periwinkle, phlox, salvia, snap- dragon & verbena. Wait until October to plant petunias and pansies. Give poinsettias their final pruning in September, pinching the tip of each shoot to encourage branching. Move potted poinsettias to a sunny location. Give Christmas cactus a last feeding this month. Move into partial sunshine and reduce watering until buds appear. Spray and prune roses, removing old flowers, hips and dead, damaged or spindly growth. Fertilize container-grown roses

Florida Hairstreak Butterfly (Eumaeus atala)

Plenty of rain and an increase in butterfly friendly gardening have made this a banner year for butterfly sightings in our area. I’ve noted an unusual number of zebra longwings and been delighted by the aerial balletics of monarch couples. I’ve seen Gulf fritillaries, sulphurs, hairstreaks, a ruddy daggerwing and some I can’t identify. The most outstanding butterfly event of the summer has been an explosion of the imperiled atala butterfly population. They seem to be everywhere…everywhere, that is, that has coonties growing nearby. I’ve had many in the garden but the most I’ve seen have been at the foundation planting of coonties on the south side of Chase Bank on 5th Avenue. I’ve seen as ma

Variety and Interest

Add variety and interest to the landscape and table with exotic fruits. This is a great time of year to plant fruit trees. The Brevard Rare Fruit Club will have its annual sale in April and nurseries are full of a variety of healthy young trees. A few of the more than 500 varieties of Mango cultivars Tropical Fruit for the Home Landscape – IFAS/UFL Tropical and subtropical fruits: Tropical Fruit for the Home Landscape – IFAS/UFL Pine Island Nursery Tropical Fruit Viewer - Enhance pollination of fruits during spring flowering by allowing a selection of nearby weeds to grow to provide

Giant Swallowtail

Last week I spotted a giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), North America’s largest butterfly. The swallowtail was resting on an oak-shaded fern. It was missing a lower piece of the right wing. I emailed a picture to Florida butterfly researcher Sandy Koi, who said it appears a reptile had bitten the butterfly. Giant swallowtail caterpillars, known as orange dogs, have a reputation for being harmful to citrus trees, their major host plants. However, they are unlikely to defoliate trees and actually seem to prefer several native trees related to citrus such as the wild lime (Zanthoxylum fagara) also known as cat’s claw and the spiky-trunked Hercules club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) that g

The Amazing World of Succulents

BOTANICAL BROWSING “The Amazing World of Succulents” A spectacular presentation from a state Master Gardener Conference.

Check this out

Enjoy Veggetorials on YouTube. Learn to grow a vegetable garden from kitchen scraps and more.

Did you Know

Did you Know – that 150 millions years ago Jurassic period dinosaurs munched on coonties or that coontie plants are either male or female? In a sure sign of global warming. Ventnor Botanical Garden (photo) A male and a female Japanese sago (Cycas revolute), a coontie relative, have bloomed in Ventnor Botanical Garden on England’s Isle of Wight for the first time in 60 million years. The VBG, dubbed “Britain Hottest Garden” enjoys a sub-tropical microclimate and boasts a subtropical and exotic plant collection unrivalled in the UK. They offer to propagate plants to order and to find a source for any requested plant.

WHAT TO DO October

Fertilize – Restrict fertilization to plants that clearly need it. In general, established trees don’t need fertilization. If plants aren’t doing well used a controlled-release fertilizer like Lesco 8-2-10, Landscape & Ornamental Fertilizer, 100% sulfur-coated slow release. Don’t apply fertilizer close to tree trunk. In the past woody shrubs like hibiscus and ixora were armed for cold weather by applying a fertilizer high in potassium, such as Fertilome Winterizer or Sunniland Bloom Special. With increasingly warmer winters this is no longer critical. See Nutrient Deficiencies (Landscape Plants): Lawns - Fertilize Bahia a

How to Take a Soil Sample:

Soil pH: 1. Identify the area(s) to be sampled. Turf areas, vegetable gardens and ornamental beds should all be sampled separately. 2. Using a shovel, trowel, or soil probe, remove soil from several spots in the sampling area. Select several plugs at random, place in a container, and mix together. 3. Remove any plant material or mulch dug up with the plugs. Avoid adding plugs that show different characteristics. These may need a separate test. 4. Soil should be removed from 2-4 inches below the surface for turf and 6-8 inches below the surface for vegetables and landscape plants. 5. Remove approximately 1-2 cups (1 pint) of

Fall At Last

Finally, what sheer pleasure to be outdoors planting, transplanting, weeding, pruning, dividing, rearranging and experimenting in the garden. Equally delightful is taking time to relax in the garden or on the patio and survey your domain. This is ideally done with a libation in hand and a friend at your side. On a recent Saturday morning an old friend, who moved to Georgia a few years ago, surprised me with a visit. We sat on the catching up with each other over glasses of iced coffee. Then she suggested we walk through the garden. Over the years we had traded cuttings and seedlings and it was fun for her to see what pass-along plants from her garden are thriving in mine. I gave her a seedli

Coontie Hairstreak

Below is a photo of an iridescent atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala) aka coontie hairstreak. Jane Higgins, in her riveting presentation at the September meeting mentioned them. Below are links to two fascinating pages you’ll enjoy. They are still considered rare, so be on the lookout and report sightings by emailing Sandy Koi or Donald W. Hall, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida and authors of the “Featured Creatures” article. Featured Creatures: The Atala Butterfly interesting article from “Entomology Today” A Nearly Extinct Butterfly Makes a Comeback in South Florida Garden Glossary - Companion Planting: The sowing of seeds in the garden in such a way that plants hel

Calling All Citizen Scientists

Consider participating in a study headed by Sandy Koi about the migratory patterns of monarch butterflies. Encourage others to join in. A great student or Scout project. Hi Brevard friends, I am asking for some passive monitoring from you all and anyone else who wants to do so. Background: There are four basic "flyways" in North America that birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other winged animals use to migrate: The "Pacific Flyway", the "Central Flyway", the "Mississippi Flyway" and the "Atlantic Flyway." We live on the Atlantic Flyway, of course. There has been on-going assumption for years in the scientific world that any Monarch that migrates south to Florida from anywhere north of here

Fall is here?

According to the calendar fall is here. Have you noticed? I’m not convinced. Early each morning I step outside eager to revel in that almost imperceptible atmospheric shift that signals autumn’s cooler, less humid weather. However, despite shorter days and the southerly migration of the sun. But I have yet to feel exhilarated. The abundant rains of earlier have disappeared and, at least in our garden, everything growing seems to be begging for attention and water. Whatever the weather there is a lot to do in the October garden, so get out there, assess your landscaping and develop a plan of action. Perhaps focus on planting for pollinators. The most important thing to do in your garden is

What To Do November

Perennials: Divide and replant overgrown perennials and bulbs now so that they establish before the coolest weather arrives. See Seeds and Propagation (Lawn and Garden): Fertilize vegetable plants with granular fertilizer monthly. Once vegetable plants are flowering and producing spray fish emulsion & Maxicrop seaweed on both sides of the foliage every week. Prune dead or diseased branches in trees and shrubs and remove. Don’t prune deciduous fruit trees, shrubs, and vines until they have shed all of their leaves. See Fruitscapes site for detailed information on pruning the various fruit trees, shrubs, a

Website of the Month

Gardenate, an Australian website provides great information on what to plant when by zone and offers in-depth information on each plant including how to plant, companion plantings, what plants to keep apart, harvest times, and culinary hints. The comments and questions are fun to look at; e.g. someone in US zone 10 asks “How do you plant 10,000 cabbage seeds?” No one has answered yet. Over the years I’ve wondered why I can rarely get ginger to sprout. Reading Gardenate comments I learned that most ginger purchased at the supermarket has been steamed to prolong shelf life, so it won’t sprout. Who knew? Garden Quote Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp

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