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Show #41/5002. Gardening In Ft. Lauderdale

Introduction
THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY HERE. Floyd and Jane Wray came to South Florida from Michigan in 1926. They built their house, which is still here, around 1932. It was actually their weekend home because their main residence was in Hollywood, Florida about 10 to 12 miles from here. At that time it was too much of a trip to travel from the orange groves here to their home in Hollywood every day. So, they would stay here during the week and go home on weekends. The picked the site for their house carefully. It sits on higher ground. The house is situated on an oak hammock which is a whopping 14 feet above sea level. The surrounding areas are pretty much 3 to 4 feet above sea level.

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Oak Hammock
MANY HAMMOCKS IN FLORIDA ARE COVERED WITH TREES. This hammock has some open areas. And there is a very good reason. 2 hurricanes have recently hit the area. Katrina breezed by in 2005 and they were fortunate, they had limited damage. However, the eye of Hurricane Wilma came very close to Flamingo Gardens. She came from the southwest part of the state and built intensity across the Everglades. This is an Oak hammock, which normally would be well protected, and some areas did hold up well, but some areas here were planted with tropical trees that are not native and as a result many of them turned over or blew down.

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Palm Damage
SEVERAL PALMS ARE LEANING WAY OVER. Laura and her crew have been doing their best to keep the load on the Palm light by keeping the fronds cut down or reduced. Eventually they'll turn and straighten themselves up. But, the trunks will always be leaning.

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Champion Trees
THEY STILL HAVE SEVERAL FLORIDA STATE CHAMPION TREES ON THE PROPERTY. One Joe could get lost in. It is a Ficus racemosa 'Cluster Fig' tree. It has the largest circumference for a single trunk tree in the state of Florida. It lost quite a few leaves and branches in the storm and when one deals with a tree this big one of its small branches is huge.

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Staghorn Fern and Epiphytes
JOE FINDS A PLATYCERIUM BIFURCATUM 'STAGHORN' FERN. Staghorns are great examples of tropical plants and epiphytes. These are plants that grow on other plants in warmer climates. Staghorns don't require a lot of watering, they do need a high humidity situation and warmth. They don't need a lot of direct light so the shade provided by the Oak trees is a great compliment for their needs. If they have roots at all the roots are more designed to anchor themselves to the trunk of the host plant. Staghorns derive their nutrients from runoff that comes down the trunks of the trees.

Click here for more info

Heliconias
HELICONIAS ARE ANOTHER EXAMPLE. They are heavy feeders and like a lot of water. When one takes away the competition from the roots of other plants and gives them additional light, the flowers do well. This is exactly what the hurricane damage did. Accordingly, they have some great specimens at Flamingo Gardens. One of the most common types of Heliconias they have here in South Florida is the Heliconia caribaea x bihai 'Jacquinii.' It's one of the upright types of Heliconias. The bloom actually comes up and grows upright out of the cane. The bract is the part people find most attractive. The flowers are down in the bracts thus one doesn't see much of them.

Click here for more info

Take Away
JOE FEELS WE'VE LEARNED MUCH TODAY, a lot of lessons apply to gardeners everywhere. First we've learned that there is always hope for tomorrow. Gardens are never a finished product. The hurricane damage we've see in this garden has given this garden character. Gardens are an evolution, they're never finished. Even though natural disasters are devastating, there are things we can do. Nature is resilient but we can add a little extra care. An example would be the Palm trees that were blown over. Laura lightened the load of the canopy, supported the front or added a bolder at the back and the trees have survived. And they are now unique, they tell us about the history of Flamingo Gardens. We were reminded that trees aren't arbors although they do coexist with epiphytes, for example. Don't allow a lot of heavy vines to grow on trees and weigh them down. Nature is always changing, we can learn to deal with that change and benefit from that change. It's what makes gardening fun and exciting.

Click here for more info

LINKS:

Flamingo Gardens

Garden Smart Plant List

Show #41/5002. Gardening In Ft. Lauderdale

Complete transcript of the show.

As every gardener knows sooner or later Mother Nature will wreak havoc on our garden. In this show we visit a garden that has survived several hurricanes. We take a close look at some of the plants and how they have adapted after the storm.

We first visit with Nicki Grossman the President of the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Visitors and Convention Bureau. Nicki tells us the idea for Ft. Lauderdale started about 100 years ago. As Miami was being developed as a playground for the rich and famous, Broward County was developed for people of more modest means, allowing them to enjoy the same experience. The hospitality industry has grown over the past 100 years. There was a long period of time when college students came here for spring break. But during the past 20 years the emphasis has been more on families. Now approximately 10 million people come and enjoy the area each year. There are 47,000 yachts registered in Broward County by people that either spend all or part of their time here. It's called the Venice of America. It's a place where the nation's winter fruits and vegetables were grown for many years. Now a lot of those previous farm areas have become gardens. Ft. Lauderdale is a place where people get a chance to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty that nature has created year round. Ft. Lauderdale doesn't close down in wintertime. Nicki says there is room for everyone to come and visit and welcomes everyone to come and enjoy Ft. Lauderdale.

With cool breezes and bright sunshine it's no wonder that everything thrives in South Florida. From the peacocks and flamingos to the beautiful trees and plants. In this show we visit Flamingo Gardens and the Director of Horticulture, Laura Tooley.

Laura grew up gardening and loved it. Her mother would send her outside to put Epsom salts on Coconut Palms. She knew that this was something she wanted to do. She went to college and studied horticulture. It was there that she realized why she had been putting Epsom Salts on the Palms. As well, she learned why soils require different fertilizers. After graduating she put her degree to work maintaining her 150 acre college campus. She worked there for 7 years, then came to Flamingo Gardens almost 11 years ago. She started here as Director of Horticulture and has found it an interesting task overseeing so many different collections that had been developed over the years by many different directors. Their interests are shown in all the different parts of the garden. They have a lot of land but a limited staff. Flamingo Gardens has approximately 65 acres overall. And there are only 3 gardeners, 1 irrigation person and 1 nursery person.

THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY HERE. Floyd and Jane Wray came to South Florida from Michigan in 1926. They built their house, which is still here, around 1932. It was actually their weekend home because their main residence was in Hollywood, Florida about 10 to 12 miles from here. At that time it was too much of a trip to travel from the orange groves here to their home in Hollywood every day. So, they would stay here during the week and go home on weekends. The picked the site for their house carefully. It sits on higher ground. The house is situated on an oak hammock which is a whopping 14 feet above sea level. The surrounding areas are pretty much 3 to 4 feet above sea level. They're close to the water table in this part of Florida. So the 14 feet is an amazing elevation for most parts of south Florida and it is well drained, thus not prone to floods. The house is very well protected by native Oak trees.

The 14 feet difference in elevation makes a big difference in what will grow versus what grows closer to the water table. A lot of Palms and other plants can establish a deep root system whereas in the lower elevations the roots will stay shallower because the ground is soft and the plants don't like wet feet.

The Wray's grew citrus on this land as a business. Citrus groves at that time were in the lowlands which were eventually drained of most of the water. It was swampland but the organic soils were very good and citrus did very well here. The Wray's had upwards of 500 acres at one point.

This property has some diverse conditions. For example it has both alkaline and acidic soil. Most of South Florida has alkaline soil. Here they're fortunate they have very rich, organic soil in the lowlands and a terrific acidic sandy soil, which is most helpful for drainage purposes, in the highlands.

Joe and Laura first look at the elevated area. We see the soil is sandy, but it is also acidic with a lot of organics in it. Although unusual for South Florida it is great soil to work with. Normally sandy soil is the kiss of death because it doesn't hold nutrients and it doesn't hold moisture. Here with the breakdown of the organic material working into the soil one gets the acidity plus better drainage. Drainage is always an issue in South Florida. With sand acidity makes a huge difference in its ability to take up nutrients. Since its a very deep soil it is helpful for the larger trees that need a deep root system. When they go down about 14 feet before they hit the water table, they're happy to grab hold

Top

Oak Hammock MANY HAMMOCKS IN FLORIDA ARE COVERED WITH TREES. This hammock has some open areas. And there is a very good reason. 2 hurricanes have recently hit the area. Katrina breezed by in 2005 and they were fortunate, they had limited damage. However, the eye of Hurricane Wilma came very close to Flamingo Gardens. She came from the southwest part of the state and built intensity across the Everglades. This is an Oak hammock, which normally would be well protected, and some areas did hold up well, but some areas here were planted with tropical trees that are not native and as a result many of them turned over or blew down. They had 12 feet of debris piled up after Hurricane Wilma came through in 2005. To compound the problem, Wilma came late in the season, in October. Their first cold front came in 2 days later so things didn't really have a chance to re-grow right away. However, on a positive note, this meant they had a chance to start over with some new opportunities. Thus, it's been an interesting progression of events since the hurricanes.

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Palm Damage Laura and Joe look at some of those examples. SEVERAL PALMS ARE LEANING WAY OVER. Laura and her crew have been doing their best to keep the load on the Palm light by keeping the fronds cut down or reduced. Eventually they'll turn and straighten themselves up. But, the trunks will always be leaning. They do make for interesting conversation, they tell the story of what happened here.

Another Palm is also leaning. Again they did the same thing, they kept the fronds short but didn't remove them completely. By doing this it gave them a chance to start making a turn back upright. Here they cheated a little by putting a bolder on top of the root ball to pin it in place. Another option might have been to support the trunk with a 2 by 6 or a wooden teepee to provide support until the tree recovers. This tree is starting to recover because everything is now growing in the right direction.

Laura has noticed the hardwood trees have an amazing capacity to adapt. The Oaks, for example, lost every twig, small branch, every single leaf was gone but the structure was sound. Some large limbs were lost but the trees were left standing.

Most of the tropical trees, those that were not native, blew over but they continued growing, even with only half the roots in the ground. They started turning up just like the Palms. Whether they make a decent tree in the future is another question. Even in some instances new growth started from the exposed roots. Half the root ball was in the ground but it didn't stop the tree. It just kept growing.

They next look at one of their champions that was lost in Hurricane Donna in 1960. The whole thing blew over. If one looks carefully one can see the roots of the tree have completely covered over. On one side is a big hole which originally was the trunk. It lived and adapted.

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Champion Trees THEY STILL HAVE SEVERAL FLORIDA STATE CHAMPION TREES ON THE PROPERTY. One Joe could get lost in. It is a Ficus racemosa 'Cluster Fig' tree. It has the largest circumference for a single trunk tree in the state of Florida. It lost quite a few leaves and branches in the storm and when one deals with a tree this big one of its small branches is huge.

The Ear Pod tree lost all of its leaves and a significant number of limbs 40 to 60 feet in the air which makes it very interesting getting it pruned and getting the limbs and the hangers, as they were, cut out of the tree. But it too has survived.

The Khaya ivorensis 'African Mahogany' is another champion. It's a very fast grower. Although it's a Mahogany it does not have great timber wood and is prone to breakage. But it covers up its wounds quickly. Champions are champions because they can withstand the good times and the bad and are still standing today.

The tropical Corylus Americana 'Hazelnut' tree had a canopy twice as large as it is now. The hurricane reduced its canopy but it is still extremely tall, roughly 80 feet tall and is still a significant champion.

When referring to a champion one isn't talking about a trees height compared to every plant in the plant kingdom. They're being compared to height relative to its own species. Some of the trees discussed are huge, huge trees. The Parmentiera cereifera 'Panama candle' is a much smaller tree. But for the species this is a huge tree. And unusual looking, the seedpods are dramatic.

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Staghorn Fern and Epiphytes JOE FINDS A PLATYCERIUM BIFURCATUM 'STAGHORN' FERN. Staghorns are great examples of tropical plants and epiphytes. These are plants that grow on other plants in warmer climates. Staghorns don't require a lot of watering, they do need a high humidity situation and warmth. They don't need a lot of direct light so the shade provided by the Oak trees is a great compliment for their needs. If they have roots at all the roots are more designed to anchor themselves to the trunk of the host plant. Staghorns derive their nutrients from runoff that comes down the trunks of the trees. Most of their moisture is absorbed through their leaves. In most parts of the country a greenhouse is a perfect environment for plants like the Staghorn. But most don't have a greenhouse. Many of us do, however, have an environment in our home that is similar. One needs 3 things to grow houseplants indoors successfully. One is high humidity, the next is bright light and the third is warm temperatures. Typically our indoor environment has low humidity. Our bathrooms are a place in our house where we have at least 2 of those conditions-heat and humidity. If you have a good light situation there you then have the 3rd needed condition.

Bromeliaceae "Tillandsia' is a tillandsia that is a epiphyte and native to Florida. It is often started by a seed blowing in, it might become lodged and then roots. Once the mother plant flowers she'll send off seeds again but additionally it will pop at the base, which is the habit of Bromeliads. Once they bloom they send out sprouts from the base and occasionally from the top, like a pineapple. It's a survival mechanism and an important one. Because once the mother plant dies, it flowers.

Joe likes the way nature works. One can have a tree, a branch structure, then add extra punch by putting in an epiphyte such as a Staghorn Fern or even Orchids. And there are some beautiful Orchids, Ochhidaceae, here. They have Dendrobiums, pink, white, purple, all colors of Orchids in the trees and they make the ultimate tropical statement. There is a potential downside to epiphytes or other plants growing in trees. Laura noticed that during hurricanes the primary reason for tree failure was from night blooming cactus that were allowed to grow up into the trees. The extra water weight totally changed the aerodynamics of the tree and its ability to withstand winds and the hurricane. At home we may not have night blooming cactus growing in our trees but if we allow vines to grow up and out of control we run the same risk, we set ourselves up for potential failure. So keep an eye on vines growing up your trees.

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Heliconias The hurricanes have devastated and decimated parts of the area. But, some things have responded tremendously to the advantages of more light and less canopy. Heliconiaceae is a great flower and popular with florists. It is the ultimate tropical flower and will last weeks in a vase. It's related to the banana so it comes from the herbaceous plant. It has very interesting characteristics and there many varieties, much like the rose. HELICONIAS ARE ANOTHER EXAMPLE. They are heavy feeders and like a lot of water. When one takes away the competition from the roots of other plants and gives them additional light, the flowers do well. This is exactly what the hurricane damage did. Accordingly, they have some great specimens at Flamingo Gardens. One of the most common types of Heliconias they have here in South Florida is the Heliconia caribaea x bihai 'Jacquinii.' It's one of the upright types of Heliconias. The bloom actually comes up and grows upright out of the cane. The bract is the part people find most attractive. The flowers are down in the bracts thus one doesn't see much of them. Another upright Heliconia is the Heliconia Caribaea 'Cristwick' which has deep red bracts with a little yellow lip at the top with a little splash of white. It doesn't have as many different colorations as the Jacquinii but it does get a very large bloom. One of the pendulum varieties of Heliconias is Heliconia rostrata 'Lobster Claw.' And it looks like a lobster claw. The bracts hold the flowers on top. Another that is more unusual, the Metusiana has a bit of a twist and a more open bract and doesn't have the typical lobster claw bract.

Costus barbatus is a close relative of the Heliconia. It's a type of Ginger and is called a Spiral Ginger. When looking at the base of the cane it has a spiraling effect. The underside of the leaf has a wonderful pubescence. It feels like lambs ear, is very soft and has a tremendous bloom. They came through the hurricanes well. Within one season they were back to normal, blooming better than ever. The bracts are a colorful red and the flowers are yellow. There are many types of Gingers. One is called Zingiber spectable 'Beehive Ginger.' Its a neat plant, the flower is waxy, it doesn't flower a lot but the bracts hold the flowers and the cone looks waxy and holds up well as a cut flower. And it looks like a beehive. Another is Curcuma alismatifolia 'Siam Tulip Ginger.' The blooms come directly from the ground, they eventually open up and have a beautiful red bloom with lots of little yellow flowers on the inside. It looks like a tulip. It is a great option for people in this area that can't grow tulips. It comes out in the springtime, just like Tulips up north.

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Take Away JOE FEELS WE'VE LEARNED MUCH TODAY, a lot of lessons apply to gardeners everywhere. First we've learned that there is always hope for tomorrow. Gardens are never a finished product. The hurricane damage we've see in this garden has given this garden character. Gardens are an evolution, they're never finished. Even though natural disasters are devastating, there are things we can do. Nature is resilient but we can add a little extra care. An example would be the Palm trees that were blown over. Laura lightened the load of the canopy, supported the front or added a bolder at the back and the trees have survived. And they are now unique, they tell us about the history of Flamingo Gardens. We were reminded that trees aren't arbors although they do coexist with epiphytes, for example. Don't allow a lot of heavy vines to grow on trees and weigh them down. Nature is always changing, we can learn to deal with that change and benefit from that change. It's what makes gardening fun and exciting.

We've learned a lot and Joe thanks Laura for the lessons. Flamingo Gardens has been a great learning experience.

Top

LINKS:

Flamingo Gardens

Garden Smart Plant List

 


   
 
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