The Root of the Story

Appearances can be deceiving, especially when working with plants. It’s easy to assume that because you water the same day and same amount to every plant, that this is the proper way to water your plants. But you don’t know is what’s going on below the surface. The root structure of the plants is the first thing that affects the overall health and vigor of a plant

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So, with the root system being so important, what should you look for in a healthy root system of a potted plant? One of the most important factors to look for is nice thick white roots. These roots should go all the way down to the base of the pot, not just at the surface. If they’re only staying at the surface then chances are there is a water issue with the plant. The other thing that you want to look for a nice little running routes throughout the ball of the plant. These are the little feeder roots that are going to suck up nutrients and water. The thicker roots are there for anchorage and support, as well as intake of nutrients. What you should not see a brown mushy routes. This could be an indication of too much water or possible fungus and rotting.

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Going back to the top of the plant; the overall appearance can look fine for weeks on end, but if there’s a root problem you’re not going see it until it’s almost too late to overcome.

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So we get back to appearances; don’t assume because a plant has leaves that are wilting that it needs water. My best advice is to actually get in there and feel the soil. Use your finger, use a plant auger, use a moisture meter if you have to, but check the soil. With all three of those items, check the soil in more than one spot. You might have just watered on one side of the plant consistently, so one-sided the plant is showing problems. Also, be sure to follow any directions that are given to you read regarding the application of fertilizer; too much or too little is not going to help your plant. As a matter fact too much can easily burn the roots and cause problems in the growth of the plant.

So appearances can be deceiving-you need to know what’s going on down below the foliage area and in that root ball. Once you know how the roots are growing, you will have a better idea of how to take care of your plants needs.

Everything is just Rosey!

If the customer is happy…

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Today one of my new clients paid me the ultimate complement – she called me a miracle worker, a savior of plants. She had a Rose garden that she’s been told over and over again would never produce anything down here in South Florida. So, while she was gone away for a month at the Christmas holidays I took it on as a challenge. I trimmed, fertilized, and sprayed for bugs. I did everything I knew how to do, even adding a little bit of prayer. So not only was I ecstatic, so was the customer.

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Every true Gardner knows that most plants just need a little bit of TLC. They love consistency, like to be fertilized when needed. They like to be trimmed to produce new growth. They like to be sprayed to limit any bugs, or better yet kept healthy so they can fight off their own insect and disease problems. I will have to admit I was a little surprised myself at the results. It’s been a very wet winter and, as we all know, roses don’t particularly like to be in a wet warm spot. But it all worked out, and they do look beautiful.

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Every garden has its own challenges. The trick is to meet them head-on. Do the research that you need to do to make sure you’re producing the right results and keep moving forward. Treat your plants in your garden tenderly and they were will produce for you beautiful results. Don’t let stumbling blocks getting your way, be persistent. Gardening is a year-round activity down here in Florida and you’re going to have up and ups and downs and the plants are also going to have peaks and valleys in their growth and production.
You just have to be patient and work your way through it. Before you know it, you will be enjoy your beautiful garden.

Show Your (Southern) Christmas Spirit

Down here in South Florida we love to decorate for Christmas just as much is our northern cousins do. But our methods are a little bit different, and our obstacles are definitely different. By decorating different, I mean we have different objects to decorate. Coconut Palms, Boats, Sand Castles – it’s amazing just what a southerner will find to decorate.

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As much fun as it is to decorate down here in the south (this year I spent the day in shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip-flops), it does have some disadvantage as well. In my past youthful experiences, decorating up north there was no problem with putting things in the yard. We had a beautiful snowfall piled up on the lawns for a background. The cool crisp air gets you in the holiday spirit. Lights were easy to put into the trees because there were no leaves to work around. If you put something in the middle of the yard, it would be fine there until it was time to put away after the holiday season.

Let me explain a little bit more what I mean about the difficulties of Christmas decorating a southern garden. Down here we don’t have that crisp blanket of snow that covers everything. No, instead, lawns are still growing, the leaves are still on the trees and the plants are putting out new growth. Many of us of plant annuals for color and beautification of our beds. We don’t want the decorations take away from all the money we just spent planting flowers.

As a result, we need to find a happy medium. Here are some simple suggestions for every Christmas decorator out there in the south to keep in mind. When placing lawn ornaments out try to put them within a bed so that your gardener or your hubby has no problems mowing around them. Remember to place your extension cords into the beds as well. Having them running across the lawn is an easy target for a weed eater or lawn mower.

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When stringing lights in the tree remember that the plants still are growing, and having heavy lights on the new growth can be too much weight on the planet. This can cause snapping of branches, especially in high winds. Make sure that you use the heaviest downs of a plant or better yet just string the lights around the trunks. Watch the natural shape of the plant and follow the strongest limbs going up and down the plants. Resist the temptation to put lights in every tree you have on your yard, a few simple decorations will go much further. Also, be careful how you decorate any potted plants that you have. The lights themselves may not be heavy but once the plants are wet they become heavy with rain, and they may not be able to support the weight of the lights as easily. Also, remember some spotlights can burn hot and can harm your plants with the bulbs heat.

One fun thing that you can do that our northern cousins cannot do is you can actually take your poinsettias that would normally go in the house and plant them in your garden. Adding a container of poinsettia gives it a festive air. I’ve seen the landscapers’ plant entire beds of the beautiful red flowers.

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While we’re on the subject of poinsettias, once the season is over you can either throw them away, which if you’re not going to take care of them is a good idea, or you can plant them in your yard and wait for next year for them to naturally turned red on their own. If you plant them in the north or in eastern exposure, between daylight savings times and the suns’ rays in the winter, nature will take its course and a poinsettia will naturally start turning its red color in time for Christmas.

So go ahead and have fun decorating for Christmas and when you’re done, take some photos and exchange them with our northern cousins. Our photos will be of Sand-Snowmen, Tiki huts lit with Christmas lights and the planting beds full of red poinsettias. In exchange, we will probably get pictures of snowmen, wintry sleigh rides, and a warm fireplace by the Christmas tree.

But no matter how you decorated, the important thing is to remember why we decorate. It is to celebrate the birth of our Lord and exchange the love and hope this brings with our friends and family.

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It’s Not All Black & White!

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Color!

It’s all around you, everywhere you look you see a different shade, a different color, or different brightness.

Some animals can’t see color and some humans are colorblind. This means they only see certain colors, or their colors get mixed-up. My husband happens to be one of those people and that can be quite interesting. Sometimes he’s telling me that the color he sees is one thing, when in reality is not. But for those of us that can see color in all its glory, it is a wonderful thing.

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Color in the landscaping is as natural as it can be. Nature provides different shades of the same color and does it quite well. We humans try to imitate nature, plus add our own personality into the mix. Color added to the landscape can be from the addition of plants that have colorful leaves, or flowers that will bloom and give you bright spots of vibrant contrast to the greenery around it. You can plant one solid color and just get different shades or mix many colors to get a unique planting that will give you hours of enjoyment.

The use of color in a landscape is as personal as your choice of color on your house. Where you use it and how you use it reflects a lot about you as a homeowner. If you look at the color wheel that any decorator or painter uses, you can see exactly where colors blend together naturally. But there’s nothing wrong with using contrasting colors. Mixing primary colors together to give you a breath-taking look.

Something that I’ve learned through my years of landscaping and container gardening, is that certain areas that have light issues need different types of color. Or rather different colors look best in in different lighting. For example in a really bright sunny spot, that is almost glaringly bright, I tend to use equally bright colors so they stand out and catch your eye. The same colors in a shady place will blend into the darkness of the shade. That’s why in a very shady place, I tend to use light or pale colors. Soft pinks, whites, light blues; those are the colors that really show up. They can also help to give you a feeling of peacefulness.

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But your color is it not limited to just flowers and leave textures. Color comes from your containers, from the groundcover that you use; the mulch or gravel. The accessories that you add to your landscape such as a concrete bench, a statue or a bronze fountain; all of these items add color as well as texture to the garden. Their placement is important to get the best visual benefit as well as a “play” with the colors around them.

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Try to experiment with your design. What works one year, may not work the next year. Remember, the growers are constantly coming up with new shades of plants- don’t be afraid to try something new this year.

So my personal opinion is: don’t be afraid to use color!

Little Samples, Big Convience

Samples are a great thing.

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You can get samples for food, to see if you like it, samples of new book, samples of beer to see which type of homemade brew you might like. There are samples of paper to see what is going to look best with your letterhead on it. And, of course, you can get paint samples to pick the right color for your rooms. These are just a few of the many types of samples that are available for consumers to make their life a little bit easier. But have you ever thought of using samples for the garden center? When you’re trying to match colors of plants there’s no reason why you can’t take a cutting of the leaves to make sure the flowers are going to blend together. Or, take a flower sample in with you to try and coordinate a grouping of colors and make sure that they all blend easily.

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Then there’s hard-scapes; what about the rocks you’re going to use in that edging? Is it the right color to blend in with your pots? Is the mulch the exact same kind that you use last year? If you’re just trying to freshen up the beds, you may not want to completely redo your mulch; so it’s important to get the right kind. It doesn’t hurt to take a sample of soils either. Some plants like a nice loose soil, while others would prefer to have a soil mix that is a little bit sandy for a quick drainage. Taking a sample of the soil that you’re going to plant in can sometimes help the grower help you pick the best mixture to go with your selection of. plant materials.

Even something as simple as taking in a sample of the cushions that you have on your lawn furniture can help you with your decisions on plant colors and plant shapes. If your cushion has a lot of reds and yellows into it you may want to use something like a Croton which also has a lot of reds and yellows. You might want to try to mirror the shape of the leaf in the pillowcase with real plants, for instance a bird of paradise leaf.

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Samples can also be done with the camera. You may have a large pot that you’re trying to match but caring a 32 inch pot into the garden center just isn’t going to do it, so take a picture. Cameras have come so far in the past years that the picture on your phone will be a pretty close example of what you’re using. You can then take that picture of your pot and hold it right up next to the item you’re thinking of purchasing. If the colors match, that’s great! If they don’t, you can easily move onto the next selection.

And one final sample that you may not even think about because it’s not something you can physically holding your hand death of the sample of what your lifestyle is like. Are you somebody that wants to just relax around the yard? Then you’re going to be looking for more shade producing plants and comfy lounge chair. However if you’re an active person your lifestyle might demand a more open area where you can have a volleyball net put up or a big garden area to work in.

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So, keep the mental samples in mind, as well as the physical samples when you’re choosing the accents for your gardening life.

Remember, let those small samples help you get a large amount of enjoyment out of your garden!

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

The Garden View from Your Cat

The view from a different perspective.

You’re able to sit at your desk or your living room, looking out your windows and you enjoy the beautiful garden you’ve created. The flowers are in bloom and everything is looking tiptop. But if you ever stop to consider what the view would look like from another perspective?

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Let’s take a look at it from the cat’s perspective. I sit and I watch my cat and I noticed that she sees things that I would never even notice. First of all she’s a little bit lower to the ground than I am, so she sees the things that are crawling and creeping along the ground.  Her ears pick up at the sounds of the lizard rushing across the mulch beds, her tail flicks and she waits. Then something else catches her eye; it is a bee buzzing in and out of the seedpods of the palm tree. I think she heard it before she saw it, but she hones right in on what is there. The squirrel jumping to the bird feeder catches her eye next as he chatters at her, warning her to stay away from his food.Grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis 5200

She watches and she crutches a little lower, waiting, and then a bird comes. She watches as the bird stretches its wings out and the cat must decide if she should wait & watch or pounce. Before she can make that decision, a brightly colored butterfly flutters in front of her face she jumped back a tiny bit and then reaches a paw out to try and grab it. But the butterfly just calmly moves out of her reach and goes to the next flower.

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Suddenly the wind picks up and the leaves rustle above her head. She looks up, trying to figure out where the sound came from and catches the scent of jasmine blooming in the air. She twitches her nose, trying to figure out if it’s something edible or just something pleasant. As she tries to figure it out, the warm rays of the sun hit her for her.  The sunlight is warm on her fur and she stretches and crawls up in the patch of sun, ready for her afternoon nap.

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Yes, it’s all a matter of perspective what your seeing your garden!

The Southern Fall!

Just because we live in the south doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate fall too.

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The thermometer may be saying 85° but in our hearts it says Fall! October is almost on the calendar and that means autumn and whether we admit it or not we really could use some of that cooler weather.

So maybe we can’t snuggle up in nice warm sweaters or put on some nice boots. A fire in the fireplace might be a bit over the top right now, but we can create little oasis of fall with some simple decorations using natural materials. Even though in my last blog I complained about the use of Mums, they do have a purpose for short-term usage especially for creating fall arrangements and vistas. Other Seasonal Plants are often brought into the garden centers at this time, such as Ornamental Kale, too. Adding in a few pumpkins & gourds, some corn stocks maybe even a discreet scarecrow or two and you’re on your way. A local feed store will be able to provide you with bales of hay and adding a few for broom sticks of cinnamon to your front entry; and you got a fall welcoming.

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You can easily add in some creepy Crawley type of decorations to give it a Halloween feel or just keep it simple and fall-ish. Even if you don’t go with Mums, using summer annuals in that shades of fall colors will give you the same feeling. If you use a few ornamental grasses, they can give you the feeling of a field of wheat. Add in some preserve fall leaves around your display, and don’t for get to add some lighting to finish it off. Lanterns, strings of yellow or orange lights and of course the traditional Jack-o-Lanterns would be perfect to light up the front gardens and paths.

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Even if you can’t physically lower the temperature, by putting together this little fall display, you’ve created a feeling of coolness. You have created an ambience that says “fall is here and I want to celebrate.” So get creative, bringing together your flowering colors of oranges, reds, and yellows.

Have some fun with fall with your fall decorating, it doesn’t matter if you’re from the north or the south!