One of the more popular flowering perennials grown in the landscapes of Florida and throughout the Southeast is the daylily. This blooming perennial traveled with many of the early settlers. They brought this plant for several reasons beyond the enjoyment of the bloom display, it was considered a source of food by including the petals and buds into the cooking of specific dishes.
The daylily is an easy to grow plant that requires less management than many of the other perennials grown in the garden settings of the landscape. Daylilies are linked to the lily family but are not actually in this family, Hemerocallis in Greek is Hemero for “day’ with Callis meaning “beauty”. The passion by many professional breeders and novice growers can be seen in the many selections and varieties in the plant industry today. This plant brings interest and joy to anyone that visits your landscape gardens.
This clump forming plant can be grown in different soil types from sandy loam, clay to muck edges near wetlands. The location for best performance is sandy well drained soil with high amounts of organic matter. It has a moderate salt level tolerance lending itself as one perennial to consider in coastal settings. The best way to accomplish the levels of organic matter is to till the bed area for planting, add three to four inches of compost or well-rotted manure plus a ½ pound of 3:2:1 ratio fertilizer to a 100 square foot bed. The 3:2:1 is a Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium fertilizer recommendation. Till all of this into the previously tilled bed to a six-inch depth. This mix of sand or clay with organic matter at the six-inch soil depth places it where the roots will grow.
Daylilies multiply in several different ways from forming clumps of plants from a single plant over three to four years that can be divided into separate plants and replanted to expand the bed area for managing the color display of the original plant. Plant breeders cross pollinate between selected plants that have desirable characteristics. These characteristics may be ruffled outside edges on the petals, bright or daker petal color, a change in color from the outside portion of the flower petal to the throat area at the center of the bloom or even the height of the scape which is the stem that emerges from the leaf clusters near the base that supports the flower display.
Daylilies can be purchased at many box stores in containers and easily transplanted in the garden. Another option is to visit local daylily nurseries as they often have more named variety options with many different flower colors available. Local nurseries usually grow plants in the ground so they will need to be dug and purchased as a bareroot. When planting bareroot daylilies look at the location where the leaves emerge near the base just above root area and plant one and a half to two feet apart. Make sure to plant no deeper than at that point of root and leaf growth area known as the crown. The crown must be above the soil level for quality growth.
After planting and watering in the plants be sure to mulch the bed with three to four inches of pinestraw or bark mulch. This manages weed growth and keeps soil moisture at consistent levels reducing stress to the plant. If periods of dry weather conditions occur watering the plants will be needed to keep the plants from stressing.
Landscaping in the Panhandle of Florida comes with many opportunities and challenges in this diverse plant environment of coastal, flatwoods (aka pine woodland), sandhills, and clay soil areas running adjacent to the Alabama/Georgia lines. Sandy soil is the predominate soil of the panhandle area from coastal saltwater marshes and brackish bay waters to wetlands and drier well drained quartz sandy soils of the sandhills. Unique ecosystems can be found in all these areas. One of the areas with the largest plant diversity is the Longleaf Pine savannahs found in the sandhills. Now comes the question of landscaping decisions for your residential living.
Understanding your soils and how to improve them where you live is critically important before putting the first plant in the ground. We live in an area of abundant rainfall and this will impact the chemistry of your soils. Make an appointment with your local horticulture agent at the University of Florida IFAS Extension office in your county to discuss your soil and landscape ideas. Taking soil samples will likely be needed. With instruction you can easily collect the samples needed to be sent and received to determine the best options.
With abundant rainfall, leaching of key nutrients will occur removing base cations that can include potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca) and others. This all leads to soils being more acidic in nature. Nutrient resources may need to be added and checked every 2-3 years, just be sure to follow the soil sample recommendations. Soils near wetland areas can leach differently than the deep quartz sandy soils of the sandhills. Adding organic amendments is a recommended practice. Just how much will depend on your soil setting; talk with your horticulture Extension agent. Often new homesites and commercial construction areas have soil brought in to raise or level construction locations. Understanding the movement of water through these newly added layers to the existing soil below will determine drainage and nutrient movement within this site. It can be confusing making decisions about adding soil nutrients, lime, and organic amendments.
Once all this is settled you can start thinking about how to enjoy this wonderful Panhandle outdoor living opportunity. Creating living spaces comes in many ways from building patios, porches, decks, outdoor kitchens, and strategically places chairs and benches. Talk with your family and others who may enjoy these places with you. Gazebos or barbeque grill areas may be in the plans. Placing these into the landscape takes planning. Draft designs and think of creative solutions for the site. Look at the site elevation changes from high areas to low wetland areas. Will you need “No See Um” screen for the porch to keep out the small insects or install ceiling fans to keep the breeze moving?
There are many questions to be asked. Create a list to be addressed before beginning a project and then determine the cost. Enjoy the adventure!
The interest and use of native plants in the landscape in Florida and the southeastern U.S. has increased significantly over the last 20 plus years. There are many benefits for including them in our landscapes including creating a wider biodiversity and enjoying the multitude of support for butterflies, wildlife, and unique color displays.
Choosing the plant species that works in landscape sites requires a few considerations like being adaptable to the site conditions, soil type and preparation, understanding the plant establishment needs, and finding plants regionally to your area.
Develop a landscape plan that includes addressing soil and site preparation as many landscape sites are altered during the construction phase with the soil being drastically changed. In Florida many sites need soil backfill to raise the elevation for buildings, drive or parking areas to remain above flood challenges. Choosing the right plant for the right place will need to include understanding the plants’ growing environments. Do the plants perform best in well-drained drier areas or moister situations with slight flooding tolerances? Native plants have acclimated to specific soil settings over thousands of years. When selecting the plants for your landscape, perform a site analysis with soil texture, drainage, soil pH, hours of direct intense sun or shade in the growing season, air circulation in the growing area, and growing space available. Doing your homework first can save a lot of money and frustration later. Visit the local nurseries to see plant availability. Just remember many landscape settings do not always match the natural habitats where many of these plants are established in nature.
Soil amendments will likely be needed to improve the soil conditions and provide optimal plant establishment and performance. Most often the soil that brought in is sandy and nutrient poor with little to no organic matter. In addition, the soils are compacted by heavy equipment during the construction phase. These factors can create native plant challenges leading to poor growth and shortened plant life spans. When the soils have been addressed according to plant needs the selected plants can be placed and the fun part begins by following the landscape plan.
With the landscape conditions likely altered with amendments, choose plants that can establish and grow successfully in these often more difficult conditions. Florida red maples (Acer rubrum), Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) and Sand Live Oaks (Quercus geminate) all can provide shade areas for future plantings. Butterflies attach to and feed on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Butterfly weed does well in well-drained sandy soils and swamp milkweed likes it moist. These are just a few of the many plants out there to consider. Just remember to visit your local nurseries and talk with them about native plants and availability. Enjoy your gardening adventure.
It is late summer and many of us enjoy being outdoors in the landscape and taking early morning walks before the temperature rises for the day. There are precautions to take while being outdoors and the activities as many insects are very active, including the yellow jacket. Late summer and many of us being outdoor brings us increases the change of being stung by this insect. The Yellow Jacket sting can be painful and potential dangerous to certain individuals with strong reactions to stings.
In the State of Florida there are two species of this Yellow Jacket Wasp, the Eastern Yellow Jacket and the Southern Yellow Jacket. It is difficult to distinguish between them and for this article I will refer to them as Yellow Jackets. Yellow Jackets most often colonize in the ground and are often found in lawns that tend to stay dry, landscape beds and edge of woodlands. Colonies of this flying insect can grow into hundreds or even larger numbers. Often by observation in morning or evening light the entry and exit point of the nest can be see with some luck. It looks like an extremely busy airport with lots of landings and departures. The unfortunate way to find the nest can occur by mowing the lawn disturbing the nest with many yellow jackets emerging from the nest to protect it. The colony quickly goes into defense mode with vibrations occurring nearby. This has occurred with me on more than one occasion. All modesty can be lost while run away from the nesting area with several yellow jackets stinging you move quickly move away. Clothing has been known to be shed to hopefully remove the yellow jackets busily stinging either under or on the outside of clothing.
During the early part of the spring and summer season yellow jackets are busy foraging for protein sources to feed to queen and young larvae. During the consuming of the insects, with many of those harvested being harmful insects to plants. The yellow jackets derive their sugar sources from the larvae secretions as they consume the proteins provided. This is part of the reason we do not often see Yellow Jackets in late spring and early summer. As the queen begins to reduce the amount of egg laying, hence the less numbers of larvae to feed and harvest the sugar for a wasp population at its peak creates a more aggressive need to find alternate sources of sugar. This is part of the reason why yellow jackets show up in greater numbers at outdoor sporting events and other places to look for additional sugar sources. Sugar water for hummingbirds is another backyard site for yellow jackets to work hard for the sugar. Even the birds are careful about approaching the feeders.
I do not advocate the destruction of yellow jacket nesting sites unless they are in proximity to human activity as this can set the situation of stings and potential health challenges for people. If you identify a nest location do not approach and call a company that specializes in addressing these types of stinging insects. Keep in mind that this insect provides a benefit in harvest of many harmful pests to plants yet do pose a potential threat. Be observant as you garden situations that seemed fine last month may have changed quickly.
There are many considerations to make when landscaping with small trees (under 20 feet) in the landscape that are not suitable for large trees. Some of the trees discussed can at times be considered large shrubs depending on definitions and opinions. For the purpose of this article, if it reaches 15 to 20 feet consider it a tree.
Choosing small trees for the right setting involves a number of reasons that could include the need for more privacy from other homes, use as a sound barrier from busy roads, hiding your utility area of the landscape or something unattractive nearby and making sure power lines are not obstructed. Other considerations might include soil types, drainage and holding capacity of the soils, irrigation needs, rate of plant growth and maturity height at 20 feet. Below are a few to consider for the Panhandle of Florida.
Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’) and Teddy Bear Magnolia (M. grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’) are strong hardy plants once established (within the first 6 months to a year). Both are evergreen with dark green foliage. The ‘Little Gem’ will grow to 20 feet tall by 15 to 18 feet wide. As it matures it tends to become more open and less dense which adds a nice character to show parts of the lower limbs. The ‘Teddy Bear’ will grow to 18 to 20 feet tall but at an even slower rate of maturity to 12 to 15 feet wide while maintaining its density of foliage from bottom to top. It may take a little work to locate the ‘Teddy Bear’ Magnolia.
Photo courtesy: Stephen Greer Teddy Bear Magnolia (Small compact grower)
Several hollies to consider would include the Cassine Holly ‘Tensaw’ (Ilex cassine ‘Tensaw’) and American Holly (Ilex opaca). Both are evergreen and produce red berries during the fall that are bird favorites. They have similar heights of 15 to 20 feet and widths of 10 to 12 feet. Pruning can assist in shaping and slowing these measurements, but keep in mind this will change the look of the tree and create a more formal plant presentation.
Photo courtesy: Stephen Greer Cassine Holly ‘Tensaw’
The Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginica) has been a popular tree southeast U.S. for many years. It brings a bright spot to the landscape with white flower panicles that cover the tree in mid to late spring depending on location. For a full color effect, plant it with an evergreen hedge behind it. This oval deciduous tree will grow to 12 to 20 by 10 to 15 wide. The dark blue fruit appears in the fall and serves as good bird food source. This fruit is usually hidden behind the foliage. There might even be a nice yellow leaf change in the fall if temperatures and weather allow.