GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2005 show6
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Show #6

Don Town is an owner of Town Manor, a B&B, in Auburndale Florida. It is centrally located between Orlando and Tampa and in the heart of citrus country. Town Manor was built by R.J. Straw in 1933 and at one time had 40 acres of citrus surrounding this home. It epitomizes the grandeur of old Florida, it sits on a beautiful lake and has wonderful gardens. In this part of the country one can garden all year round, thus garden centers stay quite busy. One sees not only beautiful flowers but plants with exciting foliage. Kirby's Nursery is an excellent example of an exciting nursery.

This week we visit a garden center in Brandon Florida outside of Tampa. Many find a garden center confusing, it doesn't need be that way. All one needs is a little planning and forethought and with a little experience it can be a fun experience.

Kim Kerby Bokor and her family own and run Kirby's Nursery. Kim finds that color has become increasingly popular with gardeners. Gardeners like to spruce up their yard and Spring is the perfect time to do this. Things are starting to green, it's ideal to go the garden center and see new plants and flowers. It's a great way to get ideas for your yard and garden.

Kim is going to take us on a tour showing us how to shop at a garden center. Many people have a hard time in this environment, they get overwhelmed. There is so much color, so much variety. Kim feels it is best to come into a garden center with an open mind, talk with the employees of the garden center, ask them what will grow in the area, what will grow in a sunny or shady spots and what will flower most often. Get a general idea of what you want to do, then ask these people for advice and let them provide guidelines for your space.

Charlie likes to start small. Start with a small entryway area, maybe an area around a door, something around a patio. Look at the environment, is it sunny, shady, then talk to the garden center folks and find what they would suggest for those areas. Kim thinks it overwhelming to try to address the whole yard at one time, she agrees pick a small spot, focus on that, then expand your scope. Everyone agrees use the garden center to get inspiration and new ideas.

A good garden center should provide good ideas and ways to put colors together, to show one how to accentuate the garden with pottery and other statuary. As well, the garden center should provide a general idea about what things will look like in your yard.

We look at some Annuals. They're a great way to add color to your landscape quickly. Kim has some orange Marigolds with Red Begonias. Her intent was to pick colors that would stand out from each other, she wanted color contrast. Kim chose plants that had similar light requirements. Some might have a covered porch, but they still want color yet don't have much direct sunlight, thus plants must be selected that can survive in these conditions. One may want plants that will bloom most of the year, thus don't need to be changed out as often - although most heavily blooming plants are better off if changed out at least once a year. Have an idea about some needs and specific areas that you want to address before visiting the garden center.

Kim has, with great success, used plants with striking foliage. She has some Lamia underneath Plectranthus. The Mona Lavender Plectranthus has purple flowers and has become one of the favorites at the Nursery. It's a great shade bloomer but also does well in sunlight, however the blossoms tend to last a little longer in shaded areas. With this plant she fills in with White Nancy Lamium. The color contrast between the darker leaves of the Plectranthus and the lighter color leaves of the Lamia cascading down creates a great accent. Another area has Marguerite Daisies with Sword Ferns in the back. They have different leaf textures thus really stand out. Kim has filled in with Lavender that is coming into blossom, it is a good Springtime bloomer and the deep purple color really stands out. That is a good tip when dealing with Annuals. Put Annuals with other Annuals as well as with things like Lavender, which is a perennial herb or combine the Annuals with Ferns. Utilize plants with different textures to create a nice mood or nice effect.

Kim shows us some plants, new to the Nursery. Ranunculus is a hot, new plant this year. The flower is very Rose-like, very bright, the leaf is interesting, almost like a Parsley leaf. They tend to rebud and reflower over and over. It is considered an Annual in Florida, once it gets in the hot summer sun it probably won't hold up well. Thus it's an Annual in both cold and hot spots, possibly in California it could be a Perennial. Charlie's grandmothers maiden name was Gaillardia and that is the name of this plant-Gallardia, Blanket Flower. It is a great accent for the garden. It tends to spread, it can be pruned back, cut off the little flowers and it flowers more. It has fluted flower petals, they look like little trumpets blaring into the distance. It will normally last year round in this environment. Heavy rain combined with a lot of heat could be detrimental but it normally goes year round. Other Gallardia's are Arizona Sun and Fanfare, both are hardy in colder climates. They're smaller plants, more rounded, with more uniform flowers.

Many plants have interesting foliage. Rose Scented Geraniums, once the leaf is rubbed, emit an inviting smell. Citronella Geranium is popular because it keeps Mosquitoes away. Simply rub the leaves, get the scent into the air and it will do its' job. A new Coleus has great big leaves. This new series is called the Kong Series. One is Kong Red, others are marble, there are other varieties as well. The leaf is tremendous compared to the original Coleus, probably 10 times the size. The flower is insignificant compared to the leaf. It will do well in sun or shade and can grow to over 2 feet tall and spread 2 feet wide. A great way to add color to shady areas is to use foliage.

Kim has some unusual containers. One has 5 pots together. Not everyone has a large yard, many work with limited space, a patio area, for example. This container provides height, allowing a mixture of different plants which makes it easy to trade plants in and out of the container. Charlie has one at home that he uses for herb gardening. There is another pot, on its side. It has one flat side with a drainage hole. In this case Kim has popped Ivy all around giving it the look of flowing Ivy.

Charlie and Kim look at some faux rocks. They are easy to pick up, move around and get them where needed. They are made out of fiberglass, are hollow inside and very lightweight. They are ideal for putting over things you might want to hide in the landscape - swimming pool pumps or utility boxes for example.

Kim and Charlie next discuss selecting a good plant. To select a really good plant look for fullness at the bottom and new buds developing. It is always nice to have open flowers but they will only last for a short period of time so look for future color. This particular plant probably has 2 dozen buds which bodes well for the future. Many people will choose 4 or 6 packs for vegetables or flowers. Kim thinks of these smaller plants as more of a starter plant and a more inexpensive way to purchase a large quantity of plants. Many of Kim's customers like plants in 4 inch containers because they want instant gratification. They don't take so long to grow, they're already there. They next look at a healthy Impatiens and an unhealthy Impatiens. The unhealthy plant seems to have spotting, a sign of fungus. This could introduce the problem into your yard, thus not a good idea. We next look at the roots of 2 plants, a Coleus and an Impatiens. By popping them out of their container (which is perfectly acceptable in a garden center) it allows us to look at their root system. The Impatiens have beautiful white roots throughout. They're not one big mass, rather like little veins running throughout. The Coleus, on the other hand, does not have a lot of white roots, they haven't yet made it to the side. This plant would do better staying in a container a little longer. If put in the ground at this point it would take longer and would be harder to get the plant started or established because the roots are not yet developed.

They next look at Perennials. Perennials are becoming quite popular. Kim has grouped them together, she has massed them so people can see what they will look like when they've matured in the landscape. Kim feels too often plants are just lined up, that may be organized and may make selection easier but she feels massing provides creative ideas. Thus she groups colors, heights, textures together, believing this is helpful in making a plant decision. Even when massing plants together one still needs to choose a plant and that gets difficult. They look at an Osteospermum. Kim believes that one should look for a full plant, don't get one with exposed branches. She like plants that are lush, with full green leaves. The flowering is not as critical with Perennials, a healthy plant is most important. Flowers will come if the plant flourishes. As with Annuals the root system is important. White roots are good. If they are wrapped a little it is a good idea to try to break them a little when the plant is put into the ground, that way they'll be able to spread and establish themselves. Pull them apart with your hands, if a few break that is OK, the plant will recover. You don't want the roots to keep circling the plant, it will become root bound.

A lot of garden centers have tool sections, tools for use in the landscape. One of the newest tools available is one that has an engine for a string trimmer but has multiple attachments such as a hedge trimmer, a tiller and a dethatcher. This one tool provides multiple functions and all make the yard look beautiful.

Kim and Charlie next discuss buying tips for trees. One of the most common mistakes is not buying a tree that will fit the space. It may grow too big for the area it will be in. There are different trees from which to choose-Evergreen, Deciduous, etc. Kim feels it is essential to know how tall, how wide a tree will grow. This way one won't plant it too close to the house or sidewalk. Another consideration is to understand that the tree will drop its' leaves in the winter-don't be surprised by that fact. Some people want leaves year round. Know how fast the tree will grow. If staring with a 4 foot tree know how long will it take to grow to 30 feet. Thus growth rate is important. Since a tree will be one of the larger aspects of your landscape and will be there for a long time these considerations are important. In choosing a good tree look for one that has a strong center leader, then good even branches coming off in all directions and they should be evenly dispersed (no open spots). Avoid trees with branches that have a "v" or fork, these tend to allow the tree to bend in high winds and that could lead to breakage in the future. If starting with this foundation it should then not grow or lean to one side or the other. Make sure to view the base of the tree as well as the top. At the base there is a root flare. Don't plant above that or cover it up. People tend, when they see exposed roots, to cover them up, to put dirt on top, that is bad. Plant the tree in the ground at the same level it was in the container. The roots are there to get air to the tree, never bury them any deeper than in their original container.

Since in Florida, Charlie must ask about Citrus trees. He smells a grapefruit tree and asks about growing these in the North. They grow beautifully in Florida and during the Spring are loaded with blossoms. The blossoms smell great. These trees do well in full sun and don't produce fruit nearly as well if in shady areas. They need well drained soil, so in Florida with its' sandy soil they're perfectly adapted. Citrus trees don't do well in the North, they don't like cold climates. Even in this part of Florida Lemons and Limes suffer because it's too cold at times. If growing indoors in the North one needs a greenhouse or a very sunny window. Heat is not all that is needed, they also need humidity so they'll leaf out, flower and set fruit.

Kim next shows us a unique craft item. She has noticed a popular trend, Butterfly gardening. People are always looking for ways to attract wildlife to their yard. One way to do that is to add certain flowers and animals. Milkweed serves as food for the Monarch Caterpillar. Red Penta is nectar for the Monarch Butterfly. These two plants combined in your yard provide the perfect habitat for Butterflies. Kim creates a butterfly habitat, that kids love. Look for plants that have either eggs or Caterpillars already on them. She shows us a Caterpillar on the underside of a Milkweed leaf. When she finds eggs on a leaf she will pluck off the leaves and put them in a small plastic container with the eggs on it. The small plastic container can be found at any pet store. Put the leaves with eggs inside, put the lid on, wait a couple of weeks and the Caterpillar will have hatched out of the egg, eaten all the leaves and crawled to the top and attached itself to the top of the container. Then wait for a Chrysalis, then in about another 2 weeks and you will find a Butterfly inside. She shows us a Monarch Butterfly recently hatched, it was exciting to see all the life cycles and the changes.

Thank you Kim for showing us how to create this beautiful Butterfly habitat and thank you for the tour of your Nursery. All the Spring tips have been most helpful. We really appreciate your hospitality.


Town Manor

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

Lavender is the on-trend plant for gardeners this year. Click here for an article that details a top-tier selection of lavender that ensures success.

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