Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: What can you tell me about the bamboo plant Moso?

Moso bamboo

Moso bamboo

 A:   Moso bamboo is a close relative of golden bamboo.  Moso is the largest temperate bamboo, reaching heights of over 75 feet and with 5 inch diameter shoots. Two scientific names ‐ Phyllostachys pubescens and Phyllostachys edulis ‐ are currently used as scientific names for moso bamboo. Bamboo shoots emerge from horizontal underground stems called rhizomes.  These rhizomes generally grow within the first 12 inches of soil. The real problem with this type of rhizome is it can spread or run outward 20 to 30 feet before sprouting. In addition, the rhizomes can run in all directions from the original shoot.  This can become a weedy problem by growing in areas far from the original site – namely neighbor’s yards.  We always recommend using clumping bamboo rather than running bamboo for that very reason.


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Q: Can we grow mulberries here in Northeast Florida?

Mulberry

Mulberry

A:  Indeed, we can grow mulberries here.  Mulberry (Moras spp.) is a fruit producing tree that can provide gardeners tasty fruits. Native red mulberry trees have been enjoyed by people in North America for centuries. On expedition in the mid-1500s De Soto observed Muskogee Indians eating dried mulberry fruits. Over winter the Iroquois mashed, dried, and stored the fruit to later add to water, making warm sauces that were occasionally mixed into cornbread. Cherokees made sweet dumplings by mixing cornbread and sugar with mulberries. The Timucua people of northeast Florida used the fruit, along with the tree’s leaves and twigs, to make dyes, and the Seminoles used the branches to make bows.
When choosing a location, keep in mind fallen fruits stain the hard surfaces, so it’s best to avoid planting over driveways, sidewalks and patios. Selecting a light-fruited cultivar can also cut down on the mess factor; look for ‘Tehama’ or ‘King White Pakistan’.
Mulberry trees require very little maintenance; they rarely require irrigation after establishment and generally do not require fertilization. As far as pruning goes, you can perform light pruning when trees are young to help create a strong framework of branches. With a mature tree, you should only prune to remove dead or damaged wood or crossing limbs, since the wounds caused when removing a major branches are slow to callous. Be careful when pruning your tree, mulberry trees have milky sap which can causes skin rashes in some people.


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Q: I have this strange growth on the flower stem of my orchid. What is it?

Keiki

Keiki

A:   Lucky you. This type of growth is a bit unusual but it is a good thing.  The growth is actually a new plantlet or offshoot which is called a keiki which is pronounced “kay-kee.”  Keiki comes from the Hawaiian word for “baby.”  Ultimately it can grow into a new flower spike. At first, it is small, like yours but it should soon develop roots and leaves. Once the keiki has several leaves and about the same number of roots then it will be time to repot it. The leaves should be at least 2-3 inches long before you should consider removing it. Taking it off too early will cause the keiki to die as it will not have enough food energy to be successful.  Not all orchids have the ability to produce these adventitious growths on vegetative parts of the plant. Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Dendrobium and Catasetum are a few of the better-known orchids producing easy to propagate keiki.  To remove the keiki take a sharp sterile knife and cut the plantlet just below the root tissue.  Be careful not to remove any of the roots.  It is critical to use a sterile utensil to minimize the potential for introducing disease. Consider painting the wounds on the mother plant and the keiki with a gentle fungicide to kill any potential disease pathogens. You can either repot the keiki in its own 4″ container or repot it with the mother plant.  Keep the newly potted plant away from direct sunlight while it is getting established. A newly planted Keiki will take up to three years before it produces flowers so be patient.  One other important note:  the presence of keiki can indicate the mother plant is under stress.  However, if the mother plant appears healthy to you, then do not worry just keep a watchful eye on it.  For more complete information on growing orchids check out the UF/IFAS website:  http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/orchids.html


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Q:  Can I use 2,4-D to control weeds in my bahiagrass lawn?  

A:   The best method of weed control is to maintain a healthy, vigorous turf. Following UF/IFAS recommendations for proper fertilization, irrigation, and mowing will help to maintain a healthy lawn that is able to outcompete most weeds. However, if weed problems persist, the following chemical treatments may be used on bahiagrass for weed control when needed. Post-emergence herbicides are applied to weeds presently growing, it does not control seeds. Post-emergence herbicides (e.g., 2,4-D, dicamba, and/or MCPP) should be applied in May as needed for control of annual and perennial broadleaf weeds, such as knotweed, spurge, and lespedeza. Selective control of emerged grass weeds, such as goosegrass, crabgrass, or alexandergrass, can only be achieved by hand pulling. Sedges can be controlled with applications of halosulfuron. Drop off samples of your weeds for positive identification before applying herbicides. This is important to avoid improper application which wastes money and time – it does not help the environment either.  Apply herbicides only when adequate soil moisture is present, air temperatures are between 60°F and 85°F, and the turf is not suffering from water or mowing stress. Failure to follow these precautions will result in damaged turf. For information on controlling weeds in the lawn, please refer to ENH884, Weed Management in Home Lawns, (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141). Many popular “weed-n-feed” fertilizers for home lawns contain the herbicide atrazine or metsulfuron. Both of these herbicides will damage bahiagrass; therefore, we do not recommend using weed and feed products on bahiagrass.  For these reasons it is critical to read the herbicide label.  Remember – “the label is the law.” 


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 Q:  My Italian cypress is dying and I want to replace it with a shrub that will stay thin.  Can you recommend something?

Italian Cypress

Italian Cypress

Podocarpus macrophyllus

Podocarpus macrophyllus

 A:   It is not uncommon for Italian cypress to start showing limb dieback especially if they are in the same irrigation rotation as lawns. These plants are drought tolerant and really do not need to be irrigated weekly.  My first thought is for you to consider a specific cultivar of podocarpus called Podocarpus macrophyllus var. angustifolius. This particular plant is a narrow, columnar tree with curved leaves, 2 to 4.5 inches long.  It is very hardy but you will need to cap the irrigation head for this area so it will also not develop disease issues.  


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Q: What is the bright yellow flower growing in the ditches now?

Swamp Sunflower

Swamp Sunflower

A:  Swamp Sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius, is a Florida native upright perennial potentially growing to heights of 4 feet or more. The dark green leaves are narrowly lanceolate and may reach a length of 8 inches. This spectacular fall bloomer bears yellow flowers with dark yellow or brown disks. In cold hardiness zone 8 seeds can be planted between May and July; for zone 9 planting times occurs April through August.  Swamp Sunflower grows best in full sun to partial shade and can be planted in a well-drained soil although it is native to low wetland areas. It appears to have fairly good tolerance to planting in typical garden soil but benefits from some irrigation in dry weather. If grown in partial sun, pinch plants twice in early summer to encourage branching. Swamp sunflower responds well to regular applications of fertilizer. Many plantlets develop around the base of the Swamp Sunflower; divide it yearly to gain more plants. Propagate by seed. Swamp Sunflower is susceptible to powdery mildew and spittle bugs.

 


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Choosing wind resistant trees

dsc04994editNow that Hurricane Matthew is gone and some of our trees came down there is often a “knee jerk” reaction to take all the trees down from around the house.  Perhaps we need to take some time and rethink this position because trees provide so much to us and the environment. If trees need to be replaced then let’s consider planting some tree with high to moderate wind resistance.

 

But, before I give you a list of trees to replant I want to mention we can make a good selection but do the wrong things to trees and alter their ability to withstand high winds.  Over-pruning trees or using improper pruning techniques will directly alter the trees ability to withstand storms.  Do not cut the top off the tree, no lion’s tail cut which generally removes the interior foliage.  No over-pruning to “raise the canopy.”   Be sure to call a certified arborist to prune trees.  Planting trees too deeply will show limb dieback on the tree very early.  Over-mulching – NO mulch volcanoes, mulch should only be 2-3 inches deep and never be close to the trunk of any tree of large shrub.  Over-watering – we should not water trees and shrubs the same way we water grass.  After a few years the trees and shrubs do not need irrigation unless we do through a drought period.  Growing grass up to the trunk of the tree – grass and trees are terrible partners.  The things we do to grass we should never do to trees.  Leave as large an area as possible with no grass.  Planting large shrubs around the base of the tree is a poor practice.  Adding soil to the roots of the tree – even a few inches can cause a loss of air around the roots.

 

This following information was taken from research done by the University of Florida in 2005 titled, “Selecting Tropical and Subtropical tree species for wind resistance.”

 

  1. One of the most important findings is the rooting space: the more rooting space that a tree has, the healthier it is, meaning better anchorage and resistance to wind.
  2. Trees growing in groups or clusters were also more wind resistant compared to individual trees. This might be an especially good strategy for tree establishment in parks or larger yards. Especially significant for those green belted areas.
  3. Proper should be considered an important practice for tree health and wind resistance

 

This list is not all of the trees but it will give you a good place to start:

Highest wind resistance for North Florida:

Carya floridana, Florida scrub hickory; Conocarpus erectus, buttonwood; Ilex cassine, dahoon holly;

Lagerstroemia indica, crape myrtle; Magnolia grandiflora, southern magnolia; Podocarpus spp, podocarpus; Quercus virginiana, live oak; Quercus geminata, sand live oak; Taxodium ascendens, pondcypress;

Taxodium distichum, baldcypress; Butia capitata, pindo or jelly; Livistona chinensis, Chinese fan; Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island date; Phoenix dactylifera, date; and Sabal palmetto, cabbage, sabal.