GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show4
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Show #4

Gardening under glass is a great way to control your growing environment. Today we take indoor gardening to an entirely new level as we visit the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida. Here they have 4 and 1/2 acres under glass and it showcases some of the state's most unusual places, like Key West, St. Augustine and the Everglades. The temperature is a constant 72 degrees, with the perfect humidity so it's a great place to see some healthy and unusual plants.

Kemp Gallineau is the General manager of the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando. This is a 1500 room resort that incorporates the best of Florida under 1 roof. Here they have a replica of the fort at St. Augustine, gardens that represent the Everglades and the Key West area, as well as animal exhibits. And all this is under their spectacular atrium. To compete with the many attractions in the area the Gaylord Palms must stand out. And they do, this resort is spectacular. There is no one better to show us around than Tim McColgan, who leads the horticulture staff that keeps this property at the highest level on a day to day basis.

Tim says they really do have spectacular gardens here. The gardens are about 4 and 1/2 acres in a conservatory space under glass. When the gardens were being conceived management first wanted to find what people wanted when visiting Florida. They found out that people wanted to go to the Everglades, wanted to go to St. Augustine and they wanted to go to Key West. So they created gardens out of each of those themes.

Tim feels he has the best and coolest job in the whole hotel. He loves this position. His background is in horticulture and plant science and has been in the landscape industry for about 25 years.

We start in the St. Augustine area, which is about 2 acres. If you've been to St. Augustine you know the fort. Its proper name is Castillo de San Marcos and was built by the Spanish in the late 1600's. It is made of a special stone, coquina, calcium carbonate, which is broken down shells that have been compressed over time. The Spanish would go into a quarry, cut stones out and build the product from that. It is a tough stone and could withstand the force of cannonballs. They would actually bounce off because the coquina would absorb some of the impact. They have also withstood the test of time.

Here they have plants growing out of the stone. The first we view is Pitcher Plant or Nepenthes. It does well in lower lighting situations. Next we view a Lipstick Plant which is doing well on the top. It is filled with blooms.

Tall Palms were utilized to create an archway into the fort and to make one feel they're walking into a new room or a different room. These are Caryota mitis, the Fish Tail Palm and are readily available at garden centers, although they will stay much smaller. As will the Rhapis Palm underneath which is a great houseplant and is commonly referred to as Lady Palm. If you wanted something with a bit more color one might utilize the Philodendron, this one is called Philodendron Red Congo. It will do well inside and makes a bold statement when it gets bigger.

Calathea also makes a bold statement. They have a lot of varieties of Calathea, Ctenanthe and Stromanthe, they're all kind of related. Tim likes them because they do well in low light situations, offer a bold leaf pattern and the underside of the leaf has a nice maroon color which looks great when the air moves the leaves.

Tim also likes a plant, new for him. This is a Nun's Orchid. They don't grow it for the foliage, the foliage isn't spectacular. Instead they grow it for the display, the flower. They get 6 to 8 weeks of color and it's fragrant. A great addition. This plant has a single stalk but more mature plants will have 4 or 5 spikes per plant.

The next plant is related to the Spider Plant. It's a Chlorophytum, this one is called Chlorophytum Mandarin. Tim doesn't grow this plant for its foliage either, it to is grown strictly for the color. It has a bright flash on the stem and the trunk of the plant. Tim receives more questions about this plant than any other in the hotel. Tim has mirrored their color in an adjoining bed. Part of a good design element is to take a bold statement, then repeat it on the other side.

Tim next shows us a Phoenix roebelenii palm. He found this in south Florida, had it acclimated then brought it to this environment. He has set it off with a dark backdrop. That is a great tip for the home gardener-if you want something to pop or stand out, then give it a good dark background. This palm wouldn't stand out as much without the curtain of green behind it. Tim felt that this plant had a lot of character and wanted to feature it, thus the surrounding colors.

On the way to the Everglades garden Tim and Joe notice several American alligators, that are native to the Florida area. This is a great habitat for them. The rock they're on is heated. Alligators don't have the ability to cool their bodies. They will sit on the rock or warm their bodies in the sun, then they'll slide in the water and cool down.

In the Everglades atrium they've tried to recreate the feeling and experience of the Everglades. Before building this hotel they visited the Everglades with the intent of bringing elements to this location. One of those elements is what Tim refers to as controlled chaos. There is nothing planted in individual rows, everything is more random. This is something that applies to the homeowner. Look at what happens in nature, then bring that back into your own landscape or garden. You don't need rows of 3's, 5's or 7's.

This area has several challenges. It has low light and fog, both add to growing challenges. Fog sometimes wreaks havoc on plant material. Another thing they do well here that applies to the homeowner is to make good plant choices. Choose plants that will succeed in your area. Bald Cypress does well in this environment, as does Cyrtostachys or Red Sealing Wax Palm and Alocasia and Colocasia. They do great in this environment.

Joe notices a totem. It provides a lot of vertical interest. Tim's gardeners wanted to create vertical interest thus utilized the pilings that support the boardwalk. They took Sphagnum Moss, soaked it then wrapped it with monofilament, put a drip irrigation system at the top, wrapped the whole thing, then plugged in plants. Here they utilize plants that work in this environment but plants for any environment could work. The homeowner can do the same thing. Buy the Sphagnum Moss at a garden center, fishing line will work to wrap, add appropriate plants and you can have a similar look. If you're in an area that gets very cold in the winter treat the plants as annuals, try Impatiens or whatever does well in your area.

Another challenging area had very low light, mist and fog. Plant material didn't last very long. They liked the foggy look for the mystery feel but many plants didn't like it - they were always wet. They decided to change the concept in this particular area entirely and incorporated elements of what an Everglades river bank might look like, without all the plants. Tim realized that all plants have a life span but the life span for the plants in this area was too short and they were constantly replacing them. So they developed he concept of turning this space into a riverbank and the riverbanks in northern Florida look like this. This is an example of taking a problem situation and improving upon it. Many home gardeners have similar type problems - it might be trying to grow grass in a shady situation. One might try to limb up the trees, if that doesn't work, then grow something else, replace grass with something that works. Here they took all plant material out, excavated about 2 inches of soil, put down some filter fabric, then imported 1-3 inches of washed river gravel and they have a new look. They've selectively put in plant material and placed driftwood for ornamentation. It looks natural. Joe likes it, it looks great.

Tim next shows Joe their torques. This is something their gardeners dreamed up. They've taken old growth grapevines from California. Some of this original stock was shipped to California from Europe in the 1800's. It no longer produces grapes as it should, so they've taken the vines, put them in a tumbler to give them the weathered look, then gone to a grower and found multiple varieties of Tillandsias, which are epenthetic plants (they live off the air) and essentially hot glued them on to make it look like they belong in the Everglades. It does not produce anything, it's just a dry piece of wood with a lot of character but something like what one would see in the Everglades. And it looks great.

Eric Johnson tells us this week about color combinations in containers. They're a great way to bring a dynamic splash of color to the landscape. Eric shows us some beautiful ornamental ironwork containers with some great color combinations. One of his favorites is Supertunia Petunias, this one is called Royal Velvet. It is interplanted with Blushing Princess. It is a great combination of dark lavenders with light blush colors. Fantastic. Another great combo is Phlox Intensia, Lavender Glow. It is planted with Royal Velvet for another great combination. A unique combination is Phlox Intensia Cabernet, a deep magenta, which is very nice in containers. Another Supertunia is Giant Pink, it looks fantastic. These are just a few ideas for great container combinations that you can use in any setting. For more information visit our web site, click on Gardening Tips.

Tim tells Joe about some of the interesting maintenance issues in this atrium environment. Plants normally need a lot of light. The glass in this building is 99% UV block and has a 60% shade coefficient. Because they are on the inside, without wind or rain, and with low light it is imperative to keep the plants clean, because dust will block some of the plants ability to photosynthesize. To keep plants clean they often hand wash them. On some plants they take a wet rag and wipe them down once a week. Other plants are sprayed down. On the upper canopy material which collects most of the dust, every 60 to 90 days they utilize a pressure washer. They bring a lift into the facility, then lightly pressure wash the leaves to remove the dust buildup. They keep the pressure washer at very low pressure but with enough pressure to get dust off and keep the leaves clean.

Their water irrigation system is computerized, computer controlled. They have underground irrigation and know exactly how many gallons are being applied at any given time. That changes on a seasonal basis. When the heat is turned on it's a bit drier and because it's air conditioned it results in a low humidity situation. Some spots are hot spots and some spots aren't hit with irrigation, on those spots they hand water.

Joe shares a tip for the home environment. The homeowner is going to realize 15-30% maximum humidity level during the winter and since the air conditioner is a dehumidifier in the summer as well. So houseplants suffer from a lack of humidity. A good tip is to place your container or houseplant on a saucer that has some pebbles in it, then fill that saucer with water and the evaporation actually provides humidity that the plant needs.

Tim continues with his maintenance tips. His gardeners come in early in the morning and check their area. They make sure their plants are clean and they pull off all the yellow. Plants are always yellowing and, again, they don't have wind to blow the leaves off, so they clean their plants, prune when and where necessary and they're not shy about pruning. If a plant appears to be overgrowing its area or if they want to delineate one plant from another they prune those plants.

Fertility is another issue. Again, they don't have natural rainfall. Normally one might put down a granular fertilizer but here they use a water soluble fertilizer and use water tanks to get it into the soil. They actually have their soil manufacturer incorporated fertility directly into the soil, since they're always incorporating new soil into the beds. Thus they're using a slow release fertilizer in the soil and a water soluble fertilizer periodically a few times a year. At home make sure not to over water. That is the number 1 reason that plants die-too much water. The roots get saturated and the plant dies.

The Key West atrium is filled with 160,000 gallons of water. This was recently converted to saltwater and they brought in 3 primary sport fish to the area. To do this they partnered with Florida Fish and Wildlife and acquired Red Fish, Snook and Tarpon. Some of the Red Fish are 35 to 40 pounds.

They've added color to this garden. What Key West garden would be complete without Coconut trees? The Cocos nucifera does well here but they do get a little stressed because of the low light situation. As well, they've blended a lot of interesting color combinations. They're colorful and fun and add a relaxed feel - just like Key West. Tim has done a wonderful job of blending great colors and plant material with the high Palm Trees, then the mid range, then the lower plant material. There is a lot of different tropical plant material in this area.

Joe feels like he has had a plant tour of the whole state of Florida and thanks Tim for the tour. Tim and his stars have done a wonderful job, this is a lovely facility. Truly a great place to visit.

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