Posts

Adult Birds Need Food Too

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 A lot has been written and reposted a great many times about the importance of caterpillars to the success of nesting birds. There is no doubt that the vast majority of songbirds rely on them to feed and fledge their nestlings. I have planted my landscape to do just that.  For the most part, it has been done with my butterfly plants as my woody species are still too small to attract the attention of most butterflies and moths. The neighbor behind me has several mature live oaks ( Quercus virginiana ) and a large sweet gum ( Liquidambar styraciflua ), so I have these as well. I have left several snags alone that overhang my back fence and I suspect that these are valuable to the downy and red-bellied woodpeckers that visit my landscape daily. Invertebrates of all kinds - from spiders to earthworms have been encouraged here and the fact that I do not use a lawn company to spray by lawn means that there are things like mole crickets beneath the turf. As a renter, I am required to keep so

A Butterfly Update

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Cloudless sulfur recently emerged  Perhaps the quickest change to any landscape is the appearance of butterflies. Even in suburban deserts such as I my landscape is surrounded by, butterflies find their way if their host plants are present. There is so much attention these days on creating pollinator gardens and wildflower meadows, but too many times these articles and posts fail to grasp the most important part - that butterflies do not need nectar sources nearly as much as they need a host plant to raise their young. When your total lifespan is likely to be less than a week as an adult, it is absolutely critical that you don't waste time producing the next generation.   Butterflies are especially adept at finding their host plants. It is an evolutionary necessity.  Plants emit volatile organic compounds (VOC's) into the air and adult female butterflies are drawn by these chemicals to locate their suitable larval host plants. They don't do this to find nectar as it is not

Revisiting the Concept of Cultivars

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Cultivars of Native Florida Flame Azalea ( Rhododendron austrinum ) Today as I spend some time in my backyard landscape, the Florida flame azaleas ( Rhododendron austrinum ) I planted nearly 3 years ago are in bloom. They have grown a bit slower than I would like, but I am an impatient gardener. The truth is that they are doing about as well as they should be at this point in time. Perhaps someday, they will be shrubs that stand 6 feet tall, covered with these gorgeous blossoms, but today, they are merely 2 feet in height and I have to treasure the few flower clusters they produce. I wait each year for these flowers to arrive and they last just a week or two before they disappear again to be held on skinny stems with very little aesthetic appeal. Some might wonder at my zeal in growing them, but they are an integral part of my woodland's spring progression and I wouldn't trade them in for anything else that might be more lush. These also are cultivars - a word used almost as a

What is "Native"?

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Blanketflower - Gaillardia pulchella   Gaillardia aestivalis The world of taxonomy is often confusing - at least to those of us relatively new to it. Plants (and animals) often undergo name changes - at times for reasons that seem unnecessary or for no reason. We learn a name only to discover that someone has decreed the name to be in error and it gets changed to something new. I am forever learning new names for old plants and it often is difficult to make the switch without a great deal of effort.  Years ago, it was deemed that all of the dozens of species once placed in the genus Aster were no longer such. They were moved, in large part, to a new genus name, Symphyotrichum , which is much more difficult to spell. To make matters worse, a few of the former "Asters" were not moved to this new genus, but to several other new ones such as Erybia and Sericocarpus .  It's a never ending battle to stay on top of things sometimes. There are rigid rules that govern the naming o

Spring is a Season in Florida

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 As I sit and work in my landscape, I am reminded once again that Florida has seasons just like every other temperate location in the world. It's just that you have to be attuned to them. I pity all of the transplanted northerners that come to Florida and then bemoan the lack of seasons here. They just don't take the time to recognize them. They are subtle. We don't get walloped over the head with a baseball bat like they do up north; the south is more cultured than that. You don't see seasons in Florida if you stay inside your home, car and place of work and take a quick peek out the window once in a while. You also can't recognize it if the landscape you spend your time in is planted with non-native tropicals. After all, there is no need to time your flowering and leaf fall with a specific time of year if you evolved in an area where the growing conditions remain constant year round. Plants native to Florida, however, have not evolved that way. They do things just

it's All About Sunlight

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Red Buckeye - Aesculus pavia  Last July, I wrote about the importance of sunlight and my hope that I had planted my small woodland properly to get the most out of it. As I sit here today, it looks like I have done pretty well. My once-small red buckeye is in full bloom. Last summer it went deciduous at a time that seemed far too soon, but that has happened to me before. Red buckeye abhors the intense sunlight of summer. It is a deciduous tree and it grows in the understory of deciduous woodlands. Given too much sunlight in summer and early fall, it will shed its leaves and revert back to its winter look - a bunch of stout bare stems. I planted several nearly 30 years ago in a native plant demonstration landscape at the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension office not fully understanding this. The woodland I planted consisted of 3- and 7-gallon canopy trees and I planned them to someday provide some protection for the red buckeyes I planted adjacent to them. Each year, before the canop

On Valentine's Day

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Love  As I write this post today, I find myself in love once again. Love has always been a powerful emotion to me, as it is I suspect with everyone susceptible to it. As I sit here contemplating its hold on me, I realize that we too-often discount its real meaning in life. On days like this, folks outside a relationship dismiss it and folks who have lost one ridicule it - like it is love's fault somehow. Perhaps we define it too narrowly or misunderstand what it really gives us. When we define love as something between two individuals/ a pet/ even a possession, we minimize the scope of what love entails. As I wander my new landscape or simply sit outside and watch the life that now lives around me, I have a better understanding of love, I believe. I realize that real love exceeds the simple two-person/ thing relationship and that it encompasses a much broader outlook on life as a whole. It is love that draws us to the earth and the creatures/plants/natural beauty that share this li