Sesame Surprise

Sesame Surprise

Last spring, I attended a seminar at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy hosted by the Gardening Friends of the Big Bend (GFBB). Brie Arthur was the guest speaker and taught us about foodscaping, gardening with grains, and other traditionally agronomic crops that I had not considered for my landscape. Excited by her presentation I made some purchases at the GFBB plant sale including a small sandwich bag filled with sesame seed. Little did I know this would turn out to be one of my favorite plants last summer!

My first attempt at growing sesame was in a flower bed that received overspray from turf irrigation and about 6 hours of direct sunlight. The plants were small and although they flowered, were nothing to get excited about. Despite this lackluster first attempt, a few weeks later I threw some seed out alongside sunflower seeds in a different bed  that receives full sun, no irrigation, and has sandy soil. I watered by hand for about two weeks, if we received no rain, to get the seeds to germinate and seedlings off to a decent start. The foliage that emerged in this bed looked so different from the first batch of sesame that I thought that I had mixed up my seeds. The foliage was wider and the plant was denser compared to my first attempt. I was completely stumped on what I was growing and started sending pictures to colleagues. Nobody knew what I was growing and apps just confused the issue further. Once it bloomed it resembled sesame, but I was still puzzled, so I took lots of photos and sent them to UF Extension Botanist Marc Frank. He confirmed that all these vastly different looking plants were indeed sesame! He advised that the long history of cultivation has led to extreme variability in the species which was certainly on display in my garden. This was a good reminder that the best way to identify plants is with their flowers.

For weeks, the sesame bloomed and was bombarded by bumble bees and other pollinators. To encourage more flowering, I continued to deadhead instead of letting it go to seed. We had summer thunderstorms that knocked it over and it just sent new stems skyward and kept on blooming. The sesame thrived in the harshest part of my garden until winter set in. Since I was growing it for pollinators I kept deadheading and never attempted to harvest seed.

Sesame is very drought tolerant and is sensitive to too much water or humidity, so plant it in a spot with well-drained soil, good air flow, and away from irrigation overspray for best results.

Book & Garden Lovers Unite

Book & Garden Lovers Unite

The UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Pollinator Garden is the proud recipient of a Little Free Library built, stocked, and installed by the Bay County Library Foundation. We were incredibly fortunate the foundation had the perfect box designed and painted by local artist Heather Clements just waiting for the perfect place to be installed!

You might be asking yourself, how does a Little Free Library work? It’s very simple, if you want a book you take one and if you have a book to donate you leave it in the box. Our box includes books for all ages and reading levels including children’s books in English and Spanish and of course gardening and wildlife topics. As people exchange books the titles and topics will change and evolve over time.

If you are in Panama City I hope you will take a moment to pick out a book and enjoy our demonstration gardens at 2728 E. 14th Street, Panama City and visit the virtual garden for educational information about the garden inventory.

Looking for a Little Free Library near you or Interested in starting one? Visit or contact your local library to find out more information.

#littlefreelibrary #artinthegarden #gardening #bookworm

2023 Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE!

2023 Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE!

We are kicking off our fourth season of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! on February 9th and hope you will join us to learn Florida Friendly Landscaping Principles from UF/IFAS Extension Faculty from the Florida Panhandle.

There are several ways to participate in this free webinar series. Join us live on Zoom by pre-registering at the links in the table below, watch on Facebook, or check out the recorded sessions on YouTube (also embedded at bottom or page).

2/9/2023Small Scale Vegetable Gardening
3/9/2023Pollinators: No Mow March
4/13/2023Home Citrus
5/18/2023Managing Pests
9/14/2023Weed Wrangling
10/12/2023Herbs and Cool Season Edibles
Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! Special Episode Freeze Damaged Landscapes 1/12/23

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! Special Episode Freeze Damaged Landscapes 1/12/23

Freeze damage
Cold damage on kumquat. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.

In December, winter rolled in with extreme low temperatures that affected landscapes across Florida.  Horticulture Agents have been receiving a high volume of calls asking about the long-term fate of landscape plants impacted by the cold, so the Gardening in the Panhandle team decided to offer a special episode addressing these concerns.

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! Special Episode Freeze Damaged Landscapes will be held on Thursday, January 12, 2023, at 12:15 p.m. CDT/1:15 p.m. EDT. We will follow our usual format where the audience can join on Zoom, Facebook, or watch a recording on YouTube. The only change is that this program will be condensed to 30-45 minutes, rather than a full hour.

Three ways to participate follow:



YouTube (recording will be added 1/13/23)  

UF/IFAS Bay County Demonstration Garden Goes Virtual!

UF/IFAS Bay County Demonstration Garden Goes Virtual!

Have you ever visited a public garden or a park and wondered what type of plant you were looking at? Or found the name on a sign but wondered – can I grow that at my house? How big will it get? Does it have flowers, berries, keep its leaves in the winter? We feel your pain, fellow plant lovers!

Gardens are ever evolving and providing up to date printed information on all the plants can become difficult to manage and involve a lot of wasted resources. In Bay County, we have several gardens at the Extension Office, and we try to keep everything labeled, but space on signs is limited to plant name and we want to teach gardeners how to grow not just identify plants. To expand outreach of Florida-Friendly plants, we have created a website with all the plants in our demonstration gardens.

The site is organized by garden area, common name, and botanical name to ease navigation. Each plant profile has photos at different stages, basic cultural information, and links to additional research-based information.

Whether you are visiting our gardens in person or just want information on plants that perform well in the Florida Panhandle, we hope you will check out our new site and let us know if you found it useful and how we can improve.

Visit the UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Virtual Garden