Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I am just not successful growing butterfly bush along the coast here. What am I doing wrong?

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush

A:   You are doing nothing wrong it just butterfly bush (Buddleia spp) prefers a more inland climate, especially in our sandy soil. They do not like high humidity and watering them twice weekly should be avoided.  They can develop mildew problems on their leaves if they are not getting good air circulation. Well-drained organic soil is the best.  Of course, we do not want you to use any type of pesticides around the shrub as it can kill the butterfly population which should be one of the reasons for growing the butterfly bush. We planted Buddleia Lo and Behold ‘Blue Chip’, which is a trade-marked plant. We have had incredible success with it. This butterfly bush dies back in the winter but returns each year.  It is a dwarf variety and so pretty. 


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Q: My gardenia is not doing well and I am thinking the soil pH might be the problem. How can I get it tested?

Gardenia Flower

Gardenia Flower

A:  Go about 6-8 inches deep and take several samples from around the root area placing the samples in a bucket.  Mix the soil and bring us one sample – about a cup is fine.  Master Gardeners man the Yulee satellite office on Fridays 10am – 2pm and can run a pH for you at no cost.  Call us at 904 530-6351 for directions to the Yulee satellite office.  You can also drop the sample through the letter box on the door and we can run it anytime during the week.

Now, just a few things other things to consider regarding your gardenia shrub:
1.  Gardenias should not be planted by the foundation of a home or near the sidewalk, driveway, or walkways as these concrete structures leach and have a tendency to raise the pH to uncomfortable levels for these acid loving plants.
2.  Planting them under the eaves of the house encourages leaching too and often the plant will get too much water off the roof if there are not gutters.  Too much water can create the prefect environment for disease such as fungal leaf spots and root decays.
3.  Some cultivars of gardenia do better with morning sun exposure and afternoon shade.
4.  Keep lawn grass as far away from any tree or shrub as the things we do to lawn grass we should not do to trees or shrubs.  Be careful about applying lawn grass weed killers around the roots of trees or shrubs.
5.  Keep mulch off the trunk or any tree or shrub.  Allow for an area around the base of the trunk which contains only soil and air.  Mulch should be only 2-3 inches deep.  Never use rock as it can compact the soil and retains heat – neither is good for trees or shrubs.  Pine products are preferred.
6.  It is critical to ensure the shrub is not planted too deeply.  You should be able to find the large roots coming off the trunk in just an inch or so of soil.  More than a few inches of soil on the roots is too deep.
7.  Watering the shrub twice a week like the lawns can be excessive and they hate it.


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Q: I am interested in growing pummelos. What can you tell me about them?

Pummelo

Pummelo

A:   Pummelo, Citrus maxima, looks similar to a grapefruit but quite different.  It is a very large, round to pear-shaped, yellowish orange fruit with very thick rind. The fruit is so large there have been records of fruit weighing up to 20 pounds; however each fruit is more typically around 5 pounds. Still, it is a large single fruit to hang from a tree by anyone’s standards. Although it looks similar to a grapefruit the flesh is sweeter and less bitter. Because of the size of the fruit and the thick rind it is generally not a consumer favorite. Thus, you many have some difficulty finding it in local grocery markets or plant nurseries. Once the thick rind is removed the flesh divides easily into separate sections. Although it is important to also note the sections may differ in size and form on some of the pummelo cultivars.  The tree can grow to heights of 30 feet with an equally wide spread so consider its mature size when planting it in the landscape. Pummelo is typically grown in cold hardiness zone 9-11. When planting in the landscape provide as much sun exposure as possible but avoid areas where wind could be an issue. Some of the more common varieties of pummelo include: Chandler, Ichang, Red Shaddock, Reinking, and Webber. There are three new cultivars of pummelo which have been released to Florida citrus growers which means we should see them at the market.  One other important thing to know about pummelo – UF is working on producing a hybrid with grapefruit which will give you the peppery tang of the grapefruit but avoid the serious drug interaction problems typically caused by grapefruit. The professor’s findings have been reported in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.