‘Jon Jon’ magnolia
This winter’s recurring freezes and frosts have played havoc with early flowering plants like magnolia. While buds are freeze-resistant, open magnolia flowers can quickly turn brown after exposure to temperatures about 30°F or lower. One way to avoid freeze-damaged flowers is to choose later blooming cultivars. These selections have flowers that open in north Florida during late February or later.
The Magnolia Garden at the University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Quincy has more than 150 types of magnolias planted. Based on over 10 years of data, five of the latest blooming magnolias are Daybreak, Jane, Betty, Jon Jon and Ann. These cultivars have peak bloom dates ranging from late February (Ann) to mid-March (Daybreak). Thus, they bloom after most flower-damaging freezes.
Daybreak has beautiful, large shell-pink flowers on a small tree. Jon Jon has huge white flowers with a streak of red-purple at the base. These fragrant flowers open goblet-shaped the first day, and then open wider to a cup-and-saucer shape on subsequent days. At NFREC, Daybreak and Jon Jon have about 6 weeks of flowers and grow as single-stem or multi-stem trees up to about 30 feet tall.
Jane, Betty and Ann are sister cultivars developed at the National Arboretum. As you would expect with sisters, they look-alike, and have a shrubby or multi-stemmed tree habit, generally growing about 15 feet tall and wide (much shorter and wider than Daybreak and Jon Jon). All three have upright, cup-shaped flowers in various shades of pink and red-purple. Betty has medium red-purple flowers that are the largest of the three, over 4 inches. Jane has 3- to 4-inch flowers that are medium pink outside and white or pale pink inside. Ann has the smallest flowers (3 inches) but they are also the darkest red-purple. As an added bonus, Ann boasts the ability to produce sporadic flowers all summer long! This results in Ann having an average of 13 weeks of flowers, as compared to Jane’s 10 weeks and Betty’s 8 weeks.
These five cultivars are generally available at garden centers during spring. Ann and Jane can be found at many “Big Box” stores. All five can be purchased at “good” independent garden centers and, as a last resort, from mail-order/Internet nurseries.
For more information about these and other magnolias, see Florida Extension publication, ‘Jon Jon’ Magnolia: A Late-Flowering Deciduous Magnolia for Northern Florida, and other magnolia publications here. Also, Magnolia Society International is a great resource with a very informative website. (Note the slide show below of Jon Jon, Ann, Betty, Daybreak and Jane.)
UF/IFAS Photo by Thomas Wright
Soon beautiful blooms will come forth from one of the great landscape shrubs that characterize the South. Blooms of many colors will be produced from the azalea. It will be a magnificent show as it is every spring. Annual pruning of azaleas must be very carefully timed to maximize bloom potential. Too early and this years blooms may be cut off, but too late and next years buds may be removed, which will become next years blooms. Therefore, pruning must be timed for the sweet spot on the calendar!
UF/IFAS Photo by Sally Lanigan
Azalea blooms are located on last years growth or one year old wood. This makes it very important to wait to prune until after the blooms have occurred in order to capture the colorful spring bloom that azalea gardeners prize. Though many get “Spring Fever” this time of year and cut everything in sight, restraint is in order to prevent bloom loss and not only get green foliage from this years’ azaleas.
UF/IFAS Photo by Sally Lanigan
Also it is very important to remember that since blooms are formed on one year old wood, azaleas must not pruned too late in the growing season. If pruned too late the plant will not have time to set flower buds on the new growth before fall begins. A good rule of thumb is to never prune an azalea after July 4th.
So when should our wonderful azaleas be pruned?
Never before flowering in the late winter and early spring
- After flowering as ended in the spring
- Before July 4th
Please see more information on the care of azaleas in the UF/IFAS publication, Azaleas at a Glance.
Smilax is noted for its multiple thorns which scratch anyone who comes into contact
The yo-yo thermometer readings make it confusing for the panhandle’s human residents when choosing proper wardrobe selections. With few exceptions, the deciduous plants and trees continue to wait for consistently warmer weather and longer days before covering their trunks and stems with foliage.
The current season’s uncloaking allows for easy examination of the structure and configuration of what will be green and hidden in a few months. This exposure also reveals potentially painful hazards in the native landscape.
Smilax, the sinewy vine, puts up an intimidating barrier to man and beast. Also known as green briar, cat briar and other sometimes graphic terms, the native plant thrives in this area.
In Greek mythology, Smilax was a wood nymph who was transformed into a bramble after the unfulfilled and tragic love of a mortal man. Her final form in this fable was a reflection of her character.
Botanically, smilax is found in tropic to temperate zones. There are about 350 species worldwide and 12 in Florida, with nine being common.
The plant is very vigorous and is equipped with an enviable array of survival traits. It is ready to take every advantage to flourish and inhabit new territory, even under the most unfavorable conditions.
Individual plants can withstand harsh treatment and environments. If burned or mowed to the soil’s surface, they will regenerate from a segmented rhizome root system. Rhizome roots are the subterranean stems which spread roots and runners from its bulbous root nodes.
If pulled up, the rhizome root system will separate at joints. Even the smallest piece of root left in the dirt will generate a new plant.
Smilax has the additional resource of extra-floral nectaries, nectar-producing glands physically separate from the flowers. These nectaries may function as an organ for the plant to rid itself of metabolic wastes and/or to attract beneficial insects for pollination and defense.
Ants are especially attracted to the extra-floral nectaries in smilax and frequently establish mounds close by. The ants defend the smilax from herbivores which eat the leaves, if they can get past the thorns.
In addition to spreading by its root system, smilax produces berries which contain a seed. The berries appear in late summer or early autumn and ripen to a blue-black color.
The berries are usually consumed in winter after the smilax loses it leaves. Birds and animals will deposit the seed at a new site. Best chances for the seed to germinate occur after it is exposed to a freeze, as the panhandle has recently experienced.
Smilax vines will climb up trees, fence post, and any other stationary object to get better sun exposure. They have been known to reach over 30 feet in height, but do not tend to kill their host by shading out the sun.
Ants commonly use the vines as a readily available pathway on foraging trips. Ants may establish colonies in above ground locations, courtesy of smilax vines which provide a wide-reaching pathway.
Smilax can be controlled with some broadleaf herbicides, but repeated applications will be necessary. The best time to apply herbicides is in the early spring when the first leaves appear.
Once the leaves return, smilax can be difficult to identify and control, hidden in all the common greenery.
To learn more about smilax in Panhandle Florida read the Key to Nine Common Smilax Species of Florida or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. You were likely showered with gifts from loved ones; gifts covered in chocolate, gifts of the stuffed variety, and more than likely the kind covered in petals. And as you languish in the afterglow of affection it would be wise to remember that your bouquets will need to be shown some affection if you intend for them to remain beautiful.
Duchesse de Brabant, Tea Rose. Photo Courtesy David Marshall.
Fresh cut flowers are a popular gift for Valentine’s Day and a simple, yet elegant way to relay your affections. Flowers have the capacity to brighten up a room and bring a smile to your face. The myriad of colors and scents are admittedly irresistible. However, after a few days your once overflowing vase may seem wilted and despondent. Follow these easy steps to increase the lifespan of your flowers and extend their potent powers!
Carefree Beauty, Shrub Rose. Photo Courtesy David Marshall.
- Re-cut the flower stems using a sharp knife or shears. Remove at least one-half inch of stem to expose a fresh surface. Stems, especially rose stems, should be re-cut under water. A freshly cut stem absorbs water freely, so it is important to cut at a slant to avoid crushing the stem and to prevent a flat-cut end from resting on the bottom of the vase.
- Put flowers in water as soon as possible. Maximum water uptake occurs in the first 36 to 48 hours after cutting flowers. Place stems in 100-110°F (38-40°C) water, because warm water moves into the stem more quickly and easily than cold water.
- Make sure to remove any leaves from the stem that may be submerged. Because transpiration through leaves drives water flow up the stems of cut flowers, don’t strip all the leaves from the stem.
- Use a commercial flower food, they work best at controlling microbial populations, hydrating stems, and feeding flowers. Make sure you follow the directions on the floral preservative packet.
- Removing thorns from your roses may shorten their vase life. If damaged during the removal process flowers may be opened up to microbes that could slow down water conducting cells.
- If your vase solution begins to become cloudy, re-cut the stems and place into a new vase solution.
- Do not place flowers in direct sunlight, over a radiator, or on a television set. Heat reduces flower life since flower aging occurs more rapidly in high temperature conditions. It is important to avoid all drafty locations because warm or moving air removes water from flowers faster than it can be absorbed through the stems.
- Keep flowers away from cigarette smoke and ripening fruit, because they contain ethylene gas, which is harmful to flowers.
Louis Philippe, China Rose. Also known as the “old Florida rose” since it is found at many old historic Florida home sites and pioneer settlements. Photo Courtesy David Marshall.
Correct way to pull a soil sample is the use of a soil probe
Photo Credit : Eddie Powell
Many home gardeners ask, why take soil samples? Soil sampling must be done prior to the planting of crops to determine the correct amount of nutrients and lime to add to the soil.
It is best to take soil samples late in the fall or early winter of each year because certain additives, such as lime, require several fallow months before fully activated in the soil. Thus the 2-3 months lead time will allow lime, if needed, to react with the soil in time for spring planting.
Soil testing also determines proper fertilization rates support good plant growth, based on what is being grown. A soil test does not specify when and how often fertilizer should be applied, just what quantity. Additionally, soil tests do not test for nitrogen.
Information about timing fertilization is available at your local Extension Office. It is best to consult with your local extension agent once you have received your soil results so that he or she can advise you on the proper steps to take as to when and how to apply these items to the soil.
Soil testing will save you money and is probably the most important step that is taken in preparing your soils for good plant support. If this step is left out of the soil preparation stage, then it will be impossible to determine the proper amounts of nutrients to add to the soil to support a healthy plant.
Remember now is the time to do your soil testing for the spring. Contact your Local Extension office for any questions on getting a soil test.