The Garden’s Melody

Listen Well…

There are those who will tell you the garden is the quietest spot to spend an afternoon, but I beg to differ. The garden is full of all kinds of sounds; you only need to take a moment and listen.

Sure, there are all the everyday sounds we hear all the time outside; children playing hard, doors slamming, the sound of music coming out of the window, conversations between neighbor. The list goes on and on. But those are all man-made sounds and we want to talk about the sounds of Nature’s Garden.

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 When you listen to your garden there are many things will stand out to you. Do you hear the bull frog croaking loudly? The cackle of a crow as he steals his food from another bird? The chattering of the Blue Jay as she chases the intruder from her nest? Is there a dog barking or a squirrel scolding? There is so much to hear when you stop and listen.

Then there are the second level sounds; subtler to the ears. These sounds take a little more effort to hear, you really must listen for them. Like the sounds of the Katydid Beetle in the heat of the summer, beating its wings to make its distinctive sound. Or the sound of a Ground Dove cooing as it makes its way around the ground to get to her nest. Perhaps you hear a Mockingbird speaking to other birds, using the five or six different tones it has in its repertoire. It’s as if he’s having a conversation with each type of bird. You may hear a tapping from the Woodpecker’s beak as he searches for food in the bark of the shade tree you so enjoy. From this to the chattering of the Squirrels as they run across the yard playing tag with each other.

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No, wait a minute… listen a little closer and you will hear it. There’s a buzzing of a Bee as it goes from flower to flower gathering nectar and there is the beating of a Dragonflies wings as it settles itself on top of a pond of water looking for a drink. The lizards scurrying in the leaves looking for the next meal or the rustling of the leaves from a soft breeze add to the garden melody.

Yes, if you listen closely you can hear all kinds of adventures going on in your garden. I have a challenge for you: take your lawn chair out and settle yourself in the center of your garden. Close your eyes, and really listen. What are the sound you hear?

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What is your garden trying to tell you?

 

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It’s a cold start!

The start of 2018’s weather hasn’t been easy! Frigid temps, icy roads and record setting snowfall have made the celebrating the holiday season challenging for our northern friends and family.

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Even down here in the south, we are bracing for frosty weather. Heavy rains are beating against the windows as I write, to be followed by a cold front that threatens not only our comfort, but could also cause damage to our plants.

Many have gone to great lengths to get their gardens in tip-top condition for the holidays. We want our guest to enjoy the beautiful flowers of the south, and maybe even smirk a little because we can enjoy the tropics year-round.

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We can’t control the weather, but we can take steps to protect our gardens against the elements.

First off, don’t begrudge the rain. It’s helpful to keep the plants well-watered and strong against the beating winds. Be sure the pots are not sitting in water-you don’t want to create a situation where rotting can start.

Next, be thankful for a little wind. That will help keep the frost from settling on the leaves, flowers and fruit. But too strong of a frigid wind can burn the leaves, leaving behind brown tips and falling leaves. If you can move smaller pots out of the wind, do so. If not, try to cover them with a lightweight blanket or sheet. Try not to use plastic, it can often cause more damage than it protects by burning the plants as the sunlight magnifies through it.

Keeping the plants strong and in good health all year long will also help them recover quickly if they suffer from the cold. Remember, you may not see the damage until several days or even a week later.

After the cold has passed, don’t be in a big hurry to get out there and cut back the plants. Remember it’s only January, and there could be colder weather on the way. Instead, keep the falling debris cleared to make sure that bugs and disease do not have a place to hide, keep the plants watered and be patient. Often, you’ll notice new growth starting on within a week after a freeze. What you may think is dead can rejuvenate and become a beautiful plant again.

So, relax and view your garden from the windows until the cold passes. And be thankful we don’t have to deal with all that snow!!

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Merry Christmas!

If you’re like any other proud gardener, then you have included sprucing up your planting beds for the holidays. Flowers have been added to welcome those holiday guests as they arrive, fresh mulch has been laid and there isn’t a weed to be found!

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Now it’s time to sit back and relax. Enjoy the holiday festivities and glow in the praises of your hard work. Don’t hesitate to point out a creative design in you containers, or an unusual plant you found hidden away in the garden center. Go ahead and show off your hard work. Bring your holiday parties outside, gather around the pool or fire pit and toast in the New Year.

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This is a time to be with family and friends, and chances are they also harbor a love of plants. Let the conversation wind around the newest tool, plant or gardening method you’ve discovered. Compare notes on who has the best gardens, and make plans to visit in the new year.

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But don’t get too comfortable. This is the south, and nothing goes dormant for long down here. Soon you’ll be out there dead heading flowers, mowing the grass and plucking the weeds.

From our Garden to yours…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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So much to be thankful for!

So much happened over the last few months of this summer. We had unusually hot weather, a hurricane and then 12 day in a row of heavy rain. Yes, I was looking for the Ark, wondering if I needed to pre-book my spot!20160810_125251

But through it all, we keep moving forward. Now we are in the thick of fall planting. Drop-dead container gardens, colorful and interesting flower gardens and small spaces needing our special touch, are keeping us busy, busy!

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Thanksgiving is this week, and before you know it, Christmas will be here too. So, I think it is important to stop for a moment, take a calming breath and say “Thank you.”

In our small town, we know our neighbors, run into our clients often in our daily running’s, and often support the same causes. It’s easy to take for granted the friendships and blessings that we have. The day-to-day business of work and life tend to take over. But I wanted to personally wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

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No matter what you’re doing, who you’re sharing it with, I pray that the day will be full of blessings.

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The Storm is Coming!

When the weather Channel tells you there’s a hurricane coming the adrenaline pumps. For those of us who live down south we have automatic steps laid out in our hurricane plan and we begin to prepare. We work, keeping an eye on the news, watching the hurricane’s path to see where spaghetti models will show the path. Will we fall in the cone of error?

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As you prepare your family at home for safety, many wonder what to do about their potted plants. Here are a few tips we take every year to protect our potted plants when there’s a hurricane threat.
We watched the weather will determine the timing of our actions. The hurricane five days out may take a completely different path by the third day and it’s important to know where you stand.

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Once we make the decision that action must be taken, the first thing we do is decide what pots are too big to move. Those pots that are too big to move to a safe location, we lay on their side, if it’s at all possible, braced with bags of sand. If they cannot be moved because of weight or size, we make sure the plants are thoroughly watered to help keep them in place.

For those containers you can move, we move them inside a garage or safe location. But what if you have no room in your garage or no safe location? Then we determined, based on knowing your site, where the most protected areas are on your property. Often this is in the corner of the building protected from the direct wind. We then move the smallest pots first putting them up against the house tightly. Next, around the small pots, we put the next size containers until we’ve established all the containers are where they belong. Then, just like with the large plants we water them thoroughly. This is also important in case you can’t get to them at once after the storm to water— because regardless of what the storm weather- it will be hot afterwards and those plants will need water.
Make sure all plant debris is removed from the site. If you can’t get it off your site put it in one location and stack it tightly. All lawn decorations, wind chimes, etcetera need to be taken down and put in a secure location.
There’s not much more you can do for the outside plants at this point.
After the storm has passed, you need to assess the damage and make the proper pruning decisions that will encourage new growth and a healthy plant.
But the most important thing to remember when preparing your plants for a hurricane is safety first. Plants are things and can be replaced. The safety of you and your loved ones should be the most important think you think about.
Stay safe & God’s blessings.

Marine landscape at sunset

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We’re in the hot days of summer; you can feel it as the sweat trickles down your neck to the waistline of your pants. When you watch the news and you see highs in the 90s and heat indexes above 100. You know you’re just beginning to deal with the summertime heat.

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So you take precautions. You use sunblock.  drink plenty of fluids, stay in the shade (or if you’re lucky in the air-conditioning), and move a little slower. But you know what? You are not the only one that feels the heat. Your plants do too.

Did you know the plants will naturally take precautions to help them make it through the heat? They slow down their growth rate, using less water and food in the process, by simply maintaining the existing plant surface. They may even reduce the size of their leaves, by curling up during the heat of the day, to reduce the amount of surface for the evaporation. It can look like the plant is starting to wilt, but if you feel the soil you may find plant is still wet. What the plant is doing, is trying to protect itself from the heat. Beneath the surface of the soil, the plant is trying to conserve water as well. It will be searching for deeper water rather than surface water, which will evaporate quickly.

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There are a few things that you can do to protect your plants, just as you protect yourself. If they’re in pots, try moving them to the shade, where they can avoid the hot afternoon sunlight. When you’re watering–water less frequently, but more thoroughly, causing the roots to go deeper and not be as prone to surface trying. Hold back on the fertilization during the heat; there’s no reason to encourage plants to put out new growth when they’re trying to conserve what they already have. New growth is tender, and more prone to be sunburnt, as well. And above all else, be consistent with your watering. Water in the morning or early evening, not during the heat of the day when the water drops can actually magnify the sunlight and burn the plant. Be sure to water thoroughly, until the water comes up bottom of the pot if that is possible.

When he heat lets up, it will be time to fertilize the plants. Go ahead and trim to shape at this time, and watch them take off and grow. The first signs will show when the evening started to cool down. It won’t be long before you will noticed an increase creased in new growth and flower production.

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Until then, grab a glass of ice-tea and head for that shady spot by the pool. Summer isn’t over yet.

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Life Span

There is a lifespan for everything, and you can see signs of when things are reaching the end of their lifespan.

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From the grocery supplies we buy, to the clothes we wear, things will only last so long. Food and drink clearly label what their lifespan is by an expiration date. Our clothing fades, a clear sign it is near the end of its life span. Even people have a lifespan, and although we don’t see an expiration date stamped on our forehead, there are clear signs as we age and near the end of our time.

 

So why should your landscaping be any different? I’ve worked in the industry of landscaping in Florida for many years (decades if I’m honest!) and my experiences show me the average lifespan of a properly maintained landscape is 15 maybe 20 years. Of course, this can fluctuate based on the plant material used. Just like our human bodies if they’re not taking care of the plants will show deterioration faster and not live their long full expected lifespan.

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Does this mean if your landscape is getting ready to reach maturity and starting to decline you should start with a clean slate? NO! There are features in your landscape which will last for years 40, 50, even 100 years. What was once a small 2-foot little Oak tree, is now a 20 foot tree with beautiful spanning branches providing shade to your property. Your palm trees are mature and graceful, with slight bends from the wind and long lustful fronds.

Some plants are best when they reach maturity. Have you ever seen a bougainvillea grown over the arch of a house’s entry and is now rich with flowers with the thick stump proclaiming its age? Some plants aren’t even attractive until they start to mature, instead they seem weak, but as they grow their shape becomes clear and their value to your landscape is immeasurable.

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So, what do you do with the remaining landscape material showing decline because of age? These are the plants you remove- it might be a struggle because of 20 years’ worth of roots and debris to get around, but once removed, you’re left with a clean palette and key pieces anchoring your landscape together. Now you can create the landscape you want. You can change the whole appearance of your landscape, or you can simply re-landscape with the same type material and enjoy them for another 15 to 20 years.

The choice is up to you, but remember any mistakes which were made the first time around, and be sure not to repeat them for the second time.

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Create a new landscape design for yourself and then sit back and enjoy for the next lifespan of your plants.

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