GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show6
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Show #6

Tom MacCubbin is a county extension agent in Orlando Florida and has been one for over 35 years. He has his own TV and radio program and has written 6 books about Florida gardening. Tom likes this gardening climate. During the summertime it is hot, thus they grow tropicals, plants that can take the heat. He likes the fall, which starts around the middle of August, that's when he can plant warm season crops - tomatoes, peppers, squash, even flowers that are normally grown in more northern areas. To Tom, fall through regular spring feels like spring everywhere in the country. This is just a great place to be a gardener and there is no better place for gardeners to visit in the area than Leu Gardens.

Robert Bowden is the Executive Director of Leu Gardens and has an extensive horticulture background. Before Leu Gardens he was Director at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Director of Horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island, worked at the Charles Stewart Mott estate in Michigan and at a small botanical garden in Tallahassee. Robert feels that without question his present job is the best job in town.

Leu Gardens is famous for many things, one in particular is the Camellia collection. It is the largest collection of its kind outside California. It has 2500 individual plants, 500 selections or cultivars, it is a very nice collection. It blooms from October through March, so there is always something to see in the wintertime. They're trying to build up their species collection to over 50 and are always searching for varieties that are historical in nature or those that were released to the trade prior to 1940. They can get the newest and greatest but want the older ones. At Leu Gardens they've discovered that no one is doing that, so they are.

Robert feels people, when visiting, first notice the Live Oak Trees that are hanging with Spanish Moss. What makes this collection so special is the dappled overstory shade, the well drained soil, lots of annuals and the largest Rose garden in Florida. There is plenty to see.

Even though Orlando is not in the tropics people, when visiting, expect to see tropical looking plants. So, they have expanded on Mr. Leu's collection to include a large number of tropical looking plants that can withstand cold temperatures. Joe gets a sense we're in a tropical setting because it's so lush and enclosed. We first view their Tropical Stream Garden. Their Robellini Date Palm grows outdoors in Orlando but would be a wonderful plant for northern gardeners to place in a container. Put it on the patio or on a balcony when temperatures are warm, when it gets cool bring it back indoors and it will grow well indoors. Joe likes the idea that one can get height and structure out of a tree, still call it a tropical plant yet it can grow in a container.

We next look at a type of Heliconia, called Holiday. It can be used as a tropical annual and can be found at many garden centers - not in the landscape section but in the houseplant section. Take these plants put them in your garden spring, summer, fall - it provides an incredible amount of color. But at the end of the season throw it out, treat it like an annual.

Joe notices a Mexican Weeping Bamboo. It is one of Robert's favorites. It provides texture and height and that's important in the garden. It is a clumping type, rather than spreading type, that is the only type they have at Leu Gardens. They don't want to show the running forms, have people go home, plant that kind, then have them come up in their neighbors yard. That is an important note there is a clumping Bamboo and a spreading Bamboo - try the clumping Bamboo. It's tamable and enjoyable.

Bromeliads epitomize tropical, according to Robert. They come in a wide variety of colors, textures and forms and many have blossoms that are spectacular. Robert feels Bromeliads are one of the easiest plants to grow. Northern gardeners should go to the houseplant section then plant them in the yard. Robert can't think of another plant that produces the amount of color. They're fairly inexpensive, they grow well and when it starts getting cold they make great houseplants. But outdoors they're tough and fairly pest and disease resistant.

Bromeliads are special and, again, can be grown in a container outside spring, summer and fall. When it starts getting a little cool bring it inside, grow it all winter long, then put it back in the garden. After 3 or 4 years, it should bloom. Unfortunately after it is through blooming it will die but the good news is that it will bloom for several years. As it starts to decline, it'll produce little pups or tiny plants at the base so when the main plant dies, you dig it up, chop off the little pups, put those in a container and you have new plants again. Bromeliads have fabulous flowers, one looks like the tip of a matchstick. Another Bromeliad is native to Argentina and has major spines, thus acts as a great security plant for Robert. It prevents people from walking or cutting through certain areas. This plant can take temperatures down to the teens.

Bromeliads are a large family that contains many different types. So if you want blooms in the spring you can get those, if you want blooms in the fall, you can get that. They are easy to grow but they do like a little overstory shade and they like it moist.

Joe next notices some Elephant Ears. When he thinks of tropicals these plants come to mind. They provide a really rich texture and provide height. It's hard to find other plants that will provide their leaf size.

Bananas say tropical in a big way, as well. There is nothing like getting up in the morning, picking a banana off a tree and putting it on your cereal. They come in many different flavors - vanilla, peanut butter, there is even one that tastes like strawberry ice cream.

Robert has taken an area that was really wet. At one time they had tried to grow grass but it died. They tried growing it again then realized they were doing exactly what they tell homeowners not to do. Wrong plant, wrong place. So they let the grass die, brought in forty seven tons of rock and planted a rock garden. All the plants in this area now like wet feet, yet they flower and they have great texture. This has become one of the more popular gardens here. Louisiana Iris does well, especially in the summer heat, Calalily likes moist roots and they like the afternoon shade. Alstromeria and Alstroemeria is a great cut flower, it lasts a long time and can be grown in the ground or in containers. Begonias are another of their great collections. They have taken what would ordinarily be considered an indoor plant and planted it in the ground because they recognized Begonias like moist roots. They have performed well here.

Robert says they listened to their visitors. They said "we love the gardens, we're inspired by the gardens and we want to do some of these very same things at home. But they're so large. How do we scale it down?" So they have created 10 residentially scaled gardens or idea gardens. They have a bird garden, shade garden and others. The gardens are all labeled, so one will see people out there with their pads and pencils taking notes.

Many people work long hours but still enjoy their gardens, it's enjoyable to go outside after dinner and stroll the garden. But oftentimes, because it's late, there's not much to look at. So what about an evening garden? Robert has one. Here there aren't a lot of flowers instead a lot of color and a lot of different textures. The foliage provides the color. Cordyline is a good example, nice colors and textures. Same with the Bromeliads, easy to care for and brightly variegated foliage. Another great plant in an evening garden is the variegated Fatsia. It is on the unusual side, if you're a hunter you can probably find one. It provides texture and color. Another surprise in this garden is the Tasmanian Flax Lilly Dianella. When they bought this plant from the grower it was in full sun, so they planted it in full sun and it didn't do anything, it just sat there. Sometimes you need to move things around. Robert's father used to say that a perennial garden is in the wheelbarrow four times. So, they dug it up, moved it to another location in the shade and it took off. Since then it's been truly spectacular. Don't be afraid to move a plant, maybe it's in the wrong location, find a happy place for the plant. It'll let you know.

Everything in Florida isn't in full sun, especially under these magnificent Live Oaks. They get a lot of questions about what to grow in the shade. Here they trial plants from all over the world, bring plants here from temperate areas of the world, try them here where it gets pretty hot and they see if they perform well. Then they introduce them to the public where they will hopefully include that plant into their plant pallet when landscaping their yard. One example is an Acanthus, a spiny Acanthus. They bought it at a garden center when in Georgia but didn't expect it to do well here. Robert thought what is the worst that can happen. It will die. They brought several gallon pots back, planted them in the Shade Garden and it has done wonderfully. It looks great, has great texture and as far as Robert knows, is a first for Florida. It makes a bold statement, it's really striking.

We next look, in the shade garden, at a coffee plant. It's a great plant when you have high dappled overstory shade. It could be a great container plant for people further north where it's a little cooler. Bring it inside, put it in a bright sunny location and you'll get coffee beans, just like they do here. Joe asks, OK we're in the shade but you're talking about putting it in a bright sunny location in a container? Robert says, yes even the brightest bright light in a house is still going to be partly shaded, so it's probably best that you put it in as bright a light as you can, behind sheers or something like that in your home. That will work well. It should grow beans just like here. The red beans are exactly what you want to pick. But as one looks down the stalk there are different colored beans. When they say in the ads that they pick one bean at at time, that is what they mean and how it works because they all ripen at different times. Open the bean up, it will then need to be roasted. At Leu they have mixed the aforementioned Cordyline in with other plants, the Blue Sky Vine is an example. It is a wonderful plant to use. In this setting they've taken tropical plants and mixed them with temperate plants. A good temperate plant not normally used in Florida, although used all over the country, is Mahonia or Oregon Grape Holly. It has a great texture, lots of berries and is a great food source for animals. Persian Shield or Strobilanthes is also utilized. Robert likes this plant used in mixed perennial containers. It is an excellent plant it you're looking for something different and tropical looking. It grows like a weed, so be careful where you put it.

We next visit the herb garden, located right off the kitchen, which makes sense. Dill is one of the first things we notice because it is in full flower. It's a culinary herb, can be used in a lot of fish recipes as well as others. It is also a good food habitat for Swallow Tail Butterflies. Penny Royal is also great. You can pick up a little bit and rub it on your skin. Some use it as an alternative to mosquito repellent. And, it smells nice.

Next we have Dandelion. Many people try to get rid of Dandelion but it's a great herb, Robert uses it in salads. It is almost like a Maskal herb, a bitter herb. Spearmint is next and is great in iced tea. Rosemary is always popular in an herb garden, chop the leaves and use them in recipes or use the long sticks as skewers for shish-kabobs. It will infuse the meat with the Rosemary flavoring from the inside out adding a great taste. Harvest the leaves of the Bay Laurel, they are great in soups and stews. It also makes a great container plant. If looking for a dark shrubby plant that looks great on your terrace, think about Bay Laurel.

Eric Johnson shares his Tips and Ideas again this week. There is no question that fresh herbs are substantially better than dry herbs that you buy from the grocery store. Basil has an amazing fragrance and flavor that isn't found in dried herbs. Eric shows us a number of containers specially designed to keep herbs evenly moist throughout the entire growing season, allowing you to have fresh herbs right at your fingertips. To keep them growing, find a nice, sunny window. Eric has chosen French Tarragon, Thyme and makes a pesto out of a beautiful variegated Basil. For more information on these sub irrigation containers visit our web site - click on Gardening Tips.

Joe and Robert next visit a butterfly garden. It is filled with trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. All attract butterflies. They have even included a little bird bath, placed it at ground level, filled it with sand and the irrigation keeps the water level constant. That is why the butterflies come to drink. It's called a muddle, a mud puddle. The butterflies take their nutrients from the minerals in the mud. Children, as well as adults, love this garden. When they planted this garden they did all the needed research, placed the ideal plants around the garden then broke for lunch. When they came back from lunch the butterflies and hummingbirds had already found the plants and they weren't even in the ground yet.

The city of Orlando owns and operates this park. It is right in the middle of downtown and it is spectacular. Robert appreciates the support from the people in the city of Orlando. Joe is inspired and impressed and thanks Robert. This is truly a great garden for the state of Florida.

Links ::

Gaylord Palms and Conference Center
Harry P. Leu Gardens
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