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Show #4

Annual flowers create bold statements in the landscape. Not only are the flowers bright and beautiful but they can also compliment other colors in the garden. This week we visit Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven Florida. Cypress Gardens is one of the oldest theme parks in the state of Florida. It is and has been known for its' water skiing events and entertainment but it is a garden loaded with botanical treasures - tropical and sub-tropical trees and beautiful annual beds.

Cypress Gardens has been in this location since 1936. It sits on 150 acres and was a botanical garden when it opened. In the 1940's a water ski show was added and it started to grow. Many famous people have visited. Ester Williams filmed the movie "Easy to Love" here, it was based on Cypress Gardens and refers to the Gardens many times. Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett and Elvis have skied here. Big names are returning, The Smothers Brothers, Lonestar and Travis Tritt are a few of the recent entertainment acts. But the gardens are still the reason for the parks existence. Glenn McKelvie and Onesource are the people responsible for these stunning grounds.

Glenn is the landscape supervisor and has some beautiful annual flower gardens. The first is an island border, it seems to just float in the sea of grass that surrounds it. It starts at the top of a hill and floats down to Lake Eloise, like a little island bed. He has utilized different Salvias, Pansies, Impatiens and Dusty Miller. When these were planted, Thanksgiving and Christmas, then Valentines Day, were coming up so red and white seemed natural selections.

It is a good idea, when you have a view of your garden from a distance use bright colors. Bright colors like Red Salvia, yellows and oranges draw the eye and they stand out. In a quieter area, in a shadier place or a place where you see the garden closer use pastels like lavenders and pinks because those are meant to be viewed close up.

There are also height differences in these beds. Glenn puts the taller plants in the middle, otherwise if the larger plants were on the outside they would cover the smaller plants. The bed is a picture and the smaller flowers on the outside are the frame, you're just framing the picture. The Dusty Miller, with their silver-white color around the edge bring out the reds and yellows in the middle of the bed and makes the bed bolder looking.

We next look at other, more subtle and soothing beds. This bed is filled with Begonias. Glenn has added pinks into the reds and whites which tone down the area. The Dianthus does a nice job of reflecting the reds, whites and pinks. Because this is the topiary area he wanted a more soothing effect, instead of a bold, in your face look. These are harmonious colors because they're all the same hue. It has whites, pinks and reds and are very soothing. Also since this is next to a pathway people are viewing this bed close up.

The next bed has complimentary colors. It has Violas. In central Florida this is a cool season crop. Glenn likes Violas better than Pansies - they don't get as leggy, have a wide variety of colors, the face of the flower is dainty and they will last until about May in this climate. Since these colors compliment each other they make a more dramatic presentation, they're on opposite ends of the color spectrum. As the weather warms Glenn will be changing this bed, trading these plants for others. Next he'll plant Coleus, Lantanas, Celosias and Canna Lilies. Even in Northern areas if you have cool season crops like Violas and Begonias you can trade them out in June or July once they start looking stressed. Then put in things like Lantana, Verbena, warm season crops that like the heat, then come back to the Violas and Begonias later. With the breeding changes made to Begonias they are heat tolerant, many will do well in the heat. In Northern areas they can grow right through July and August.

Now that we've discussed different colors Charlie and Glenn discuss maintaining these beds, how to plant them, fertilize them and keep them looking good. This bed has a subtle feel. It has mixed Salvia bordered by yellow Marigolds. When putting a bed like this together consider how quickly or how much mass color you want. Glenn separates the plants 8-10 inches from each center. If you want quick color, right off the bat, put the plants closer together, possibly 6 inches on center, if more patient or want to save money place them 8-10 inches apart. Glenn wants a good, rich bedding soil, something that plants can grow in. In Florida, since they have sandy soils, he needs rich, loose dirt, something that retains moisture and holds nutrients. Thus he supplements the soil with cow manure and peat moss, a prepared mixture, adds several inches to the soil and tills it in. He does this with every planting. Glenn also uses a slow release fertilizer right before planting but after tiling and raking. It lasts for about 4 months which is about the life span of the flower bed. They supplement that every 3-4 weeks with a liquid fertilizer. Watering, particularly in Florida because it's hot, is important. Glenn likes to keep the soil evenly moist, not constantly wet. Touch and looks are important. When the soil is dark it is moist, if it were light that means it has dried out. If too wet it would be soggy, mushy. Too much water creates fungus problems and creates root rot. Glenn likes pine bark mulch. He likes the look, thinks it looks classier, and it lasts a good long period of time in this climate. He freshens it from time to time to keep the appearance looking good, by adding another layer or by raking a little bit from underneath. By adding another layer of dressing it not only makes it look better but helps in water retention. Since this is an organic mulch it tends to break down. If in a hot climate, it will break down faster than in a cooler climate like Wisconsin, for example.

Glenn shows Charlie a bed with Salvias. It has become unsightly, it had a fungus problem. These plants either have to be pulled or cut back. They decide to prune. In this situation Glenn cuts down to the base of the plant, getting rid of the old growth. It will develop new growth quickly. Cut at an angle allowing water to drip off. This stimulates the bud and the ones below to start filling out. They will sprout very quickly especially in warmer weather, similar to new plants from a garden center. This can be done to most all Annuals, cut them back, give them a shot of fertilizer, a little water and they'll sprout right back up. This can extend the life of Annuals by several months.

Glenn has Annuals in some unusual locations. He likes, what he calls, different props-rocks, different types of wood, etc. These are from Cypress and Oak trees blown over in the last hurricane. Some had hollow centers or Glenn made hollow centers, he then cut them into sections making a natural container. He has used some unusual plants. In one he used Alternanthera, a low growing plant used in their topiaries. Included as well are Bromeliads and Maranta, often known as prayer plant. Many people use these as house plants but since we're in Florida they will grow outside. In colder regions homeowners could use Begonias or Pansies or other Annuals. Glenn also used rocks to create a jungle type look. If a rock has a crevice or indentation, enough to hold a little potting mix, a plant can be placed there. It must be kept well watered or a low maintenance plant like a cactus could be used. Use whatever you have in your landscape to create a beautiful flower garden.

Glenn and Charlie next visit a Banyon tree. It has been thinned out, a lot of Cypress Gardens seems to have less of a canopy. Three hurricanes within a month and one half of each other hit Polk county and caused a lot of destruction last year. They're getting back to normal and as soon as warm weather hits things will start to flush out, a lot of new growth will fill in providing a nice backdrop very soon. The Banyon tree was thinned a little but survived nicely. Glenn has used the tree and the additional light coming through to plant some unusual plants. He has Bromeliads popping out from the trunk. Glenn feels it provides a natural setting where one might find Bromeliads, like a jungle or tropical place. In crevices of the branches or trunk, or where the roots come down he has planted Bromeliads. These are typical Bromeliads that can be purchased at local garden centers in a 4 or 6 inch pot. Find a nook and cranny between roots fill the space with a little loose potting soil and peat moss with vermiculite, then pop in the Bromeliad. Fill in with a little Sphagnum Moss around the base, keep it moist and you've created a nice lush tropical area. Keep the area around the plant moist, don't fill the Bromeliad with water because they'll rot. If on a porch, water around the base. Bromeliads are one of the hottest trends right now. If in the North use them as a Summer Annual. Put them in pots, put them on your deck or patio, mix them in with Cactus and it creates a lush, tropical look. Come September or October bring them inside, treat them like a houseplant or let them go. Either way you'll have the enjoyment of having a nice lush feel in a Northern climate or in the South grow them in their natural environment.

If you have a beautiful Annual flower bed or a formal bed with lawn on one side you'll want a clean edge between the two. It not only looks nice but keeps weeds from encroaching into the bed helping reduce maintenance. There are several ways to create a nice edge to your beds. You can use a shovel, digging a line bit by bit but that gets hard on the back. Available materials for edging include, plastic edging and metal strips and wooden edging pieces. The wooden edges can be linked together because they come with grooves thus can be made as short or long as desired. If the soil is loose, simply push these into the soil by hand. Another, easier way would be to use a power edger. This power edger is an edger on the back of a string trimmer, is gas powered and very easy to use.

Angel Trumpet is one of Charlies favorite tropical shrubs. Even in the North it can be seen in containers. This one is Yellow Angel Trumpet, Brugsmansia. It makes a nice accent plant in the garden. It can be a small shrub or a small tree and has very fragrant flowers. It blooms continuously in the warm summer months in Florida.

Thank you Glenn for showing us around Cypress Gardens. It has been most enjoyable.


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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Now is the time to shop for annuals that will go the distance all summer. Suntory Flowers has a portfolio of gorgeous varieties that thrive in the heat. To learn more, click here for an interesting article.

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