The Neighborhood Gardener – August 2019

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Purple and white eggplantsSummer Vegetables, Part Deux – As far as the more common edible garden plants go, there isn’t much that can be planted in the heat of Florida’s summers. August is when the number of edible plants you can start growing begins to kick off again. For some plants you can start a second crop, like eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Gardeners in Central and South Florida can start growing okra in August. In North and Central Florida, August marks the time you can plant squash again. Check out the infographic on UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions for more information on the edible plants that can be planted in August.

Wide shallow planter filled with colorful plantsSucculent Garden DIY – We’ve created a fast and fun video tutorial on creating a succulent garden. You can use practically any container, just be sure it has drainage holes. Next add your soil; either use a mix intended for succulents or mix soil and sand in equal proportion. Then get to adding plants. For the best-looking planter, vary colors and textures. Don’t forget to include some succulents that will spill nicely over the edge of your container. Once you’re done, admire your efforts and be sure to give your newly planted succulents some water. Watch our video on YouTube.

Hand saw cutting at a small tree branchHurricane Pre-pruning — Hurricane season started in June, but as the summer progresses it starts to kick up more. Healthy trees are a key part of making sure your home and landscape are ready should a hurricane head your way. When in doubt, look for a certified arborist to prune your trees. As far as palms go, avoid anything called “hurricane pruning” as this will do more harm than help to your tree.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Why did I ever plant these vines in my landscape? Have you ever asked yourself this question? It rang in my ears again this past week when I was cutting and pulling sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) off my citrus trees. “It looks pretty,” they said. “It’ll jazz up the back fence with purple flowers,” they promised. “It’s not too bad to control.” File these under: fibs that plant friends have told me about vines.

Small deep wine-red fruits in a cluster on branch of green plantPlant of the Month: Wild Coffee — Wild coffee is a Florida native shrub that gets its name from the small red fruits it produces which resemble true coffee beans, the difference being that wild coffee’s fruits contain no caffeine. This shrub thrives in shade and is best grown in zones 9-11, as it is not cold-hardy. Aside from being attractive, wild coffee’s berries also attract birds and other wildlife, while the flowers are one of the nectar sources for the rare Atala butterfly found primarily in southeast Florida.

Very close view of a fire antFire Ants — Fire ants are notoriously painful pests. They build large nests, aggressively defend their areas, and are hard to get rid of. There are a variety of treatment options you can employ, and what is best for one landscape may not work well for another. Your local county Extension office can offer you the most individualized help. ((Photo of red imported fire ant by Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org))

Orange flowers of crossandraAugust in Your Garden — With the heat of summer reaching its peak, the promise of more pleasant outdoor weather is just around the corner. You have a few options in terms of gardening; one is to continue planting your heat-tolerant flowers and herbs. Alternatively, you can wistfully admire your garden from the temperature-controlled comfort of your home, while planning for your fall garden when the temperatures truly begin to drop.

Read the full August issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2019

It’s watermelon season in Florida. See recipes at Fresh from Florida.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Long dark green leaf with serrated marginsCulantro – Culantro is a tasty alternative to cilantro as temperatures rise. Fun fact: Did you know culantro is a key ingredient in sofrito, also called recaito? This popular mixture of vegetables is the base of many Caribbean dishes. Plant culantro seeds this summer and in about three weeks you could be harvesting fresh herbs to use in your kitchen! Learn more about this cilantro-like herb that can take the heat and flavor your food.

Sun shining high over pine treesHeat Safety – The summer garden seems to have an endless amount of work to be done. But working outside during the summer can put gardeners at risk from the unforgiving Florida heat. Be sure to take the necessary precautions and try to work in the morning before the temperatures get too high. Read more about the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as some precautions you should be taking before heading outdoors.

Mound of plants with dark green leaves and hot pink simple flowersSunPatiens — Impatiens may be a popular cool-season bedding plant, but for the same wow-worthy color in the heat, try SunPatiens®. Unlike traditional impatiens, this hybrid thrives in full sun and humid, hot weather. Plus, they aren’t susceptible to downy mildew the way traditional impatiens are. SunPatiens® flower year-round in Florida. (Photo by Stephen Mills)

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Most gardeners that I know grow at least a few vegetable plants, fruit trees, and herbs in their yard. Others have full blown mini-farms that are in max production through each growing season. For many years these edible growing activities have been relegated to the back yard. Never mind if the sunniest part of your yard was by the front walk — edible plants had to be grown in the backyard according to most Florida municipalities’ regulations. But no longer.

Attractive palm tree-like plant in front yard of a yellow housePlant of the Month: Ponytail Palm — The ponytail “palm” might not be a real palm, but it is a great South Florida plant. This tree-sized succulent is a member of the agave family and is named for the long, delicate leaves that drape over the branches, giving it a “ponytail” effect. Being from the dry regions of Mexico, ponytail palm is well suited for rock gardens or for the cooler parts of the state, as a container houseplant. South Florida gardeners can plant ponytail palm in full or part sun in well-drained soil; it’s hardy only in zones 10A to 11.

Grassy weed that looks a lot like St. Augustine turfgrassDoveweed — Doveweed is an aggressive summer annual turfgrass weed. It resembles St. Augustinegrass in appearance, so this weed can grow unnoticed for some time. But doveweed doesn’t just invade St. Augustinegrass, it also takes hold in Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and zoysiagrass. Doveweed usually prefers wet areas, so parts of your lawn that have poor drainage or are over-watered are prime spots for it to thrive. It can also cause contact dermatitis in some dogs. (Doveweed photo by John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org.)

Orange and yellow flower spikes of celosiaJuly in Your Garden — Despite the heat, some plants can still be planted, just be sure you’re taking care to not overheat your body. Annuals like celosia, coleus, torenia, and ornamental pepper can handle Florida summers. And even in the middle of summer, butterfly lily and gladiolus bulbs can be planted.

Read the full July issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – June 2019

The summer solstice is Friday, June 21, marking the official start of the season.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Yellow and green palmate leaf of cassavaHeat Tolerant Vegetables – As spring gives way to summer and the temperatures rise, finding edible plants to grow in your garden can be a real challenge. Turning to some of the lesser-known vegetables can be just what Florida gardeners need to keep their edible gardens producing through the summer heat. Learn more about heat tolerant vegetables like cassava, malanga, winged bean, Malabar spinach, and amaranth.

A tiny brown frog sitting in the palm of a handFlorida’s Native Frogs – Gardeners can be particularly in tune with nature. While working or playing outdoors you might see—or even hear—frogs in your garden. Frogs are beneficial creatures to be sure; in their adult stage they are voracious insect consumers. Florida is home to a large number of native frogs, 27 species to be exact, belonging to five different families. Learn more about the terrestrial, arboreal, and aquatic frog species found in Florida.
(Photo: Little grass frog, Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org)

Woody roots of mangrove trees reaching into dark waterMarvelous Mangroves — Mangroves are an essential part of the coastal ecosystem. They are a keystone species, providing essential services that act as the base for the entire estuarine community. Out of the approximately seventy species of mangroves that are classified in the world, three live in Florida. These three species are from distinct genera, since “mangrove” is often a term used to describe both an ecosystem and a type of plant. The three native mangrove trees found in Florida are black mangrove, white mangrove, and red mangrove.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — As I have been traveling around the state from the panhandle to subtropical South Florida, I have been hearing from gardeners that “we didn’t have much of a winter.” It is true we Florida gardeners didn’t experience a cold winter and that means our plants in the landscape and the vegetable garden are well ahead of the game. But you know who else didn’t have much of a winter? The six-legged pests that like to feed in our yards and gardens.

Deep green oval leaf with yellow veinsPlant of the Month: Sanchezia — Gardeners are often on the lookout for plants that will shine in the shade, and sanchezia is one such plant. This low-maintenance shrub thrives in Central and South Florida; farther north, it will be killed to the ground by frost or freeze, but recovers once temperatures warm up again. Sanchezia performs best in shade and is great for planting underneath a tree canopy. It’s also tolerant of salt spray.

Small brownish green caterpillar on a blade of grassTurfgrass Pests — When it comes to turfgrass, damage can be caused by a variety of factors. As with so much, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. However, if you have a damaged lawn and you think a pest has been munching on the turfgrass, be sure you discover who the culprit is before you work to remedy the situation. Knowing which pest you are dealing with will determine which course of treatment is best. Learn more about pests of Florida turfgrass, including chafer beetles and fall armyworms.

Red and yellow swirl indicating a hurricane on a radar mapJune in Your Garden — June marks the start of hurricane season and this is the perfect time to make sure your landscape is prepared. There is no time like the present to make sure your trees are as healthy as possible. Take some time now to get any necessary pruning done. And speaking of pruning, June is a great month to prune those azalea plants, as waiting too long can hurt blooming for the next year.

Read the full June issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2019

White frangipani blooms this month in South Florida

Happy New Year, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

pink and white turnip emerging from soilTurnip the Fun in Your Garden – Turnips are quick-growing, cool weather vegetables that are very nutritious. Some turnip varieties produce delicious roots, while others produce delightful greens. If you are hoping to start your new year off on a sustainable note, you can cultivate one of the turnip varieties that produces both enjoyable roots and greens, cutting down on vegetable waste. However you eat them, turnips are a great way to “turn up” the fun in your garden.

White flowerNighttime Gardens – Gardening for the day is common. Deliberately gardening for the night can take a little reframing, but is well worth it. White and silver plants can really shine in the moonlight. Some flowers are only fragrant at night, adding another sensory dimension to your evening garden experience. The final element to bring your nighttime garden together is the lighting; whether you consult a professional or carefully string your own fairy lights, additional illumination is an important part of making your night garden glow.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — What does a Mississippi paddleboat have to do with one of the most successful horticulture programs in Florida? Many Master Gardener Volunteers know that the MG program began in Florida in 1979, but they might not know how the idea was introduced. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Florida Master Gardener program, Wendy takes a look back.

Huge tree towering over housesPlant of the Month: Mahogany — Mahogany is best known as a hardwood, but it’s a beautiful tree in South Florida too! Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) casts a light, dappled shade on the ground below, making it a great shade tree for landscapes with enough room for it to thrive. Mahogany is native to southernmost Dade and Monroe counties and is currently listed as a state threatened species due to logging. However, it is readily available for purchase at many native nurseries in South Florida.

Leafy green peace lily plant with tropical white flowersIndoor Gardening Resolutions — With the start of 2019 we’re focusing on the resolutions gardeners can make for their indoor gardening. Maybe this is the year you bring a plant inside to grow. Perhaps you’re just hoping to maintain the plants you cultivated in the past. Or maybe you’re ready to diversify and try something new or a little more challenging in your indoor garden. Whatever your indoor gardening resolution, we have some guidance to offer to help your future be a little greener.

Small broccoli floret on the plantJanuary in Your Garden — Planting cool-weather vegetables and herbs is a great way to start out the new year. Vegetables like Irish potatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard, and turnips can all be planted. Additionally herbs like tarragon, thyme, dill, fennel, and any mints will thrive in the cooler temperatures of the season.

Read the full January issue.

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A Year in Review

Say what you will about 2018, at least you can’t say it was boring.

In gardening, it was an interesting year, too. We thought we’d look back at the top ten articles from the UF/IFAS gardening website, Gardening Solutions. Florida gardeners were interested in a range of subjects, but edible gardening and native plants stood out.

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Zebra longwing butterfly on native firebush. UF/IFAS.

The top articles, in order of page views, for January 1 through December 20:

  1. Vegetable Gardening by Season – An overview of what to plant when in the vegetable garden, plus timely chores by season.
  2. Landscaping in the Shade – Advice on how and what to plant in those parts of your yard that don’t receive the necessary six hours of sunlight that most flowering and edible plants require.
  3. Firebush – This native shrub blooms throughout much of the year, attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds with its tubular red flowers. Plus, it’s practically indestructible once established.
  4. Asiatic Jasmine – A low-maintenance groundcover that tolerates a wide range of conditions, including coastal areas (P.S. – not actually jasmine).
  5. Native Plants – Basically a list of the plants covered in Gardening Solutions that are native to Florida.
  6. Tomatoes – We’re actually surprised this one isn’t ranked higher. Perhaps we’re all getting the hang of growing tomatoes?
  7. Citrus – An overview of all types of citrus in Florida and how to grow it in the home landscape. Alas, harder than it used to be…
  8. Native Trees – Another list of natives, this time it’s the big guys.
  9. Ixora – This old South Florida favorite flowers throughout the year with plenty of sunlight.
  10. Different Pests, Different Damage – A breakdown of pests by the way they ruin your plants.

 

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Beautiful, shade-loving Persian shield. UF/IFAS.

Friday Flowers: Powderpuff Tree

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This powderpuff was photographed in Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. UF/IFAS.

Powderpuff tree is a reliable magnet for hummingbirds, and easy to grow.  Its main attraction are flowers that appear in late fall and persist into the winter, giving it the South Florida nickname of “snowbird tree.”

Powderpuff (Calliandra haematocephala) is native to Bolivia, but has been cultivated widely. It is evergreen, with fine, delicate foliage that starts a copper color before maturing to dark green. When flower buds appear, they resemble raspberries, before expanding into puffs of silky stamens. Typically red (“haematocephala” refers to blood), there are some powderpuffs with watermelon-pink and even white flowers.

Trained as a tree, it has an arching, graceful habit, creating a canopy suitable for patios and even containers. It’s easily kept to a desired size with hand pruning.

Powderpuff can be grown as a large shrub or small tree in zones 9-11. In zone 9, frost can kill it back, but shoots will appear from the base in spring. With rapid growth in sandy soils and full sun, powderpuff will respond favorably to regular watering while young but should require no special care once established. Once established, it’s drought tolerant, but has also been reported to survive the occasional standing water from heavy rain as well.

For gardeners who miss their beautiful-but-invasive mimosa trees, powderpuff is an ideal alternative. It has been evaluated using the UF/IFAS Assessment of the Status of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas and is not considered a problem species.

There is (of course) a popular dwarf cultivar, Calliandra haematocephala ‘Nana’. While it doesn’t flower quite as spectacularly as the larger powderpuff, it does flower year-round.

10 Years of the Neighborhood Gardener – August 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Three balloons, two orange and one blueTen Years of the Neighborhood Gardeners – This month marks ten years of our newsletter. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our articles as much as we have loved putting the newsletter together. We look forward to many more years of bringing you fun and helpful research-based gardening information.

Bee on pink pentas flowerPerfect Pollinator Plants – Pollinators receive a lot of love from gardeners; many people love to incorporate plants for them in to the landscape. A garden that attracts pollinators will include a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, and trees that will bloom throughout the year and provide a continuous source of pollen and nectar for many pollinator species. We’ve compiled a list of some Florida-Friendly plants you can use in your landscape to bring pollinators to your garden.

The hop cone like fruit of the hophornbeam treeUnderappreciated Shade Trees — By August most Floridians are tired of the summer heat. The cooling effect of shade trees is much appreciated in the Sunshine State. Planting the right trees in the right place can even help reduce energy use in your home. We have a few native trees that might not come to mind first when looking for a shade tree, but could be a good choice for your landscape.
(Photo of hophornbeam foliage and fruit by John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — In the Florida summer it is easy to realize some of the benefits of trees. The shade trees of my youth were mango, lychee, and royal poinciana trees. These tropical trees provided loads of shade, fruit, and flowers. My shade trees of today are live oaks and crapemyrtles—certainly not as exotic as the ones I grew up with but shady just the same.

Light green palmetto fronds in sunlightPlant of the Month: Saw Palmetto — Saw palmetto grows wild in Florida’s natural areas, but it’s also a useful plant for home landscapes throughout the state. This native plant tolerates a range of conditions and provides wonderful textural interest. It’s highly salt-tolerant, making it ideal for coastal gardening. Saw palmetto prefers full sun but will grow in almost any light conditions. It will benefit from regular waterings at first, but will be very drought tolerant once established. Plants can be purchased in pots at many nurseries and can be planted year-round in Florida.

Polka-dot plant with pink leaves mottled with greenClassroom Plants — For many, August means back to school. Why not spruce up the classroom up with an indoor plant or two? We have some plants for classrooms that are good-looking (like the polka-dot plant pictured) and many of them offer educational opportunities. Plus they’re non-toxic, which is great for any place with small children or pets.

Royal palm tree photo by Dr. Timothy BroschatAugust in Your Garden — The hottest days of summer limit planting now to heat-tolerant annuals like coleus and vinca. Vegetables to plant this month include eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Check the older fronds of palms for yellowing as it may indicate a magnesium or potassium deficiency. Apply an appropriate palm fertilizer.

Detail of hexagon shaped window at new labHoney Bee Lab Update — In June, UF’s new honey bee lab was completed. “The Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory is a series of three buildings — it’s a mini bee campus. One of the buildings, the Amy E. Lohman Apiculture Center, will house the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Apiary Inspection team, a beekeeping museum, a honey extraction and processing facility, and workshop space,” said professor Jamie Ellis, who heads the honey bee lab. There will be an open house event on Saturday, August 25 in Gainesville.

Read the full August issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – February 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy gardening!

sprouts in a clear mason jarSprouts Tutorial – Sprouts can make a crispy addition to sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. They can be eaten cooked or raw, and they’re incredibly easy to grow! Growing sprouts is a great winter project and a fun activity for kids. We have a quick and simple tutorial that should have you growing your own sprouts in just about a week’s time.

Top view of a tiny wasp with clear wingsTiny Wasps to Fight Citrus Greening — Greening is a devastating citrus disease which results in decreased crop yields and the eventual death of infected trees. Globally called Huanglongbing (HLB), greening is transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid. Since 1999, biological control wasps, Tamarixia radiata, have been released in commercial and research groves as a means of controlling populations of the Asian citrus psyllids. These beneficial insects are now available to home gardeners!

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — I don’t know about you, but many of my plants got completely destroyed during this last prolonged cold snap. My gingers are toast, the plumbago is all brown and my butterfly garden is unrecognizable. I know that I should, if at all possible, delay pruning until the new growth appears. But since the plants affected are in a high maintenance area (like right by my front door) it is hard to resist pruning. But resist I must.

Both green and red maple leaves on the same branchPlant of the Month: Maples for Florida — Maples are often thought of as a northern tree, loved for their spectacular displays of changing leaves in the fall. Did you know that there are two species of maple trees that will actually grow well here in Florida? The native red maple (Acer rubrum) is found growing throughout the state, and Florida maple (Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum) is much more heat tolerant than its northern cousins.

Vultures perched in a leafless dead treeDead Wood is a Wildlife Delight — Dead wood can be extremely useful to wildlife in your landscape, so before clearing it all away consider trying to incorporate it. Wildlife in Florida struggle to find habitat with our growing human population. It’s important to offer small natural spaces in our backyards as shelter for birds, small mammals, and even insects. Brush piles are the most common types of dead wood used by wildlife. If you still have a natural Christmas tree hanging around these are great for starting a brush pile in your yard.

Young canna leaf growing out of a mound of freeze-killed plantsFebruary in Your Garden — With the recent cold weather we’ve experienced, many plants in the garden may be looking a little sad these days. It’s important to remember though that you should hold off on any major pruning or clean-up until the chance of frost has passed completely. Be sure to check when the anticipated last frost date is for your area before cutting.

Read the full February issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – January 2018

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy New Year, gardeners!

Cut away view of microgreens in dark soilMicrogreens – Relatively easy to grow and bursting with nutrients, microgreens can be a fun growing project for the New Year. Microgreens are harvested when the first true leaves emerge; both the stems and leaves are eaten. They are great for use in soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, main dishes, and as garnishes. The kitchen window is a good place to grow them. There are dozens of microgreens you can choose from offering a variety of flavors and colors to add to your dishes.

Curly leafed kale in mulched bedKale Varieties — Say “kale yeah” to healthy eating and a lovely garden in 2018! Kale is good for you, easy-to-grow, and good looking — it has it all. However, all kale is not exactly the same; there are a number of varieties with differing growth and leaf forms, colors, and edible or ornamental qualities. Check out our piece on some of the delicious varieties to grow in your Florida garden.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Was choosing a healthier lifestyle on the list? I hope so! Your gardening habit is one you don’t want to break because it is beneficial to your mental and physical health. Gardening activities are known to be associated with mental clarity as well as with reduced stress levels.

Tiny dark purple fruit of flatwoods plumPlant of the Month: Flatwoods Plum — Flatwoods plum can be a beautiful and interesting sight when it blooms in the spring. Like its relative the Chickasaw plum, it flowers before leaves appear, leaving you with a tree adorned with nothing but blossoms. The flatwoods plum produces small edible fruit that range from very tart to very sweet. This Florida-friendly tree is a great choice for growing in North and Central Florida. (Photo by James H. Miller and Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org)

A healthy green Florida-Friendly lawn in front of a stucco homeHealthy Yards with FFL Principle #3 — The third principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is to fertilize appropriately. Here in Florida that generally means passing on the seemingly convenient—but actually potentially harmful—”weed and feed.” Learn more about why “weed and feed” products are best avoided in your Florida lawn.

Woman kneeling to plant tree in holeJanuary in Your Garden — With our recent cold weather some plants may not be looking their best in your landscape. While it may be tempting to start pruning, it’s best to wait until spring. It may not look great, but this will benefit the plant in the long-term. And you could celebrate Florida Arbor Day (the third Friday of January) by planting a tree in your yard or community.

Read the full January issue.

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The Neighborhood Gardener – December 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

We’d like to wish you all a happy and fruitful holiday season.

Blue-purple flowers of plumbagoBlue Flowers – While no one wants a blue Christmas, you might be interested in some blue for your garden. Cool blue hues can help your garden become a calming and tranquil place. Of course, there aren’t many truly blue flowering plants to be found, but we’ve come up with a few that could help you “bring on the blue,” like plumbago, hydrangea, and more.

Tiny blue and gray butterflyBlue Butterflies — Whether in butterfly gardens or appreciated in nature, butterflies are arguably the gardener’s favorite insect. There are many beautiful butterflies you can find throughout Florida at various times of the year. Blue butterflies are particularly striking, and Florida is home to several. From those commonly seen to the critically endangered, we’ve compiled a sampling of blue butterflies found in our state.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — Florida gardeners are known for their butterfly gardens. We plant plenty of beautiful nectar plants for the adult butterflies and provide lots of larval host plants for the caterpillars. I have even seen Master Gardeners bring a group of caterpillars devouring their last stem of milkweed or parsley into a meeting in hopes of finding adoptive “parents” for their caterpillars. So for all you enthusiasts out there I would like to make you aware of a program hosted in part by the Florida Museum of Natural History called the Wings Over Florida.

The tops of several Christmas palms with blue skyPlant of the Month: Christmas Palm — Palms are one of those iconic Florida plants. They are great for adding tropical flare to the landscape, but if you have a small planting area, finding a palm to fit can be a challenge. Christmas palm is one of the few palm species that will do well in a small South Florida landscape. The common name, “Christmas palm,” comes from the clusters of bright red fruits that adorn these trees in late fall and winter, giving the plants the appearance of being decorated for the holidays. (Photo by Scott Zona, some rights reserved.)

A saw cutting into a branchPruning in Three Steps: A Pictorial — Pruning is an important part of keeping your trees healthy and looking their best, and using proper technique is an integral part of making this happen. An improperly done pruning job can actually harm your tree and leave it vulnerable to disease or decay. The three-cut pruning method is a great technique to make sure your pruning cuts are clean and where you want them. Our photo tutorial leads you through the process.

FAWN title with the W resembling a lightning boltFAWN — Gardeners in Florida are lucky to have the UF/IFAS Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). FAWN is a weather network of 42 monitoring stations across Florida from the north in Jay to the south in Homestead. Weather data is collected and compiled every 15 minutes.

Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbagesDecember in Your Garden — Add some color to the winter garden with annuals; gardeners in North and Central Florida might try petunias, pansies, or snapdragons, while South Florida gardeners could plant begonias, impatiens, or geraniums. In the vegetable garden, make sure that seeds and transplants are properly spaced for good development. December is a good time to consider performing a soil test.

Read the full December issue.

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