Garden and landscape maintenance can be relaxing, but it can also be stressful. Sometimes you may just not have the time or the patience to get all the work done. In that case, you may choose to hire a professional to get your yard to looks its best. A number of things should be considered when selecting a company. First of all, make sure you find a company that provides the services needed. You probably don’t want to hire a business that specializes in planting food plots if you need some trees removed from around your house. And you may not want to hire a company that manages sports fields if you want some trees and shrubs installed. Please find a checklist below of some things to consider when choosing a landscape professional.
Insurance, Licenses, and Certifications – Make sure to hire professionals who meet all state and local license and insurance requirements for the work they are are contracted for.
General Liability Insurance – General liability insurance protects against bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury. Ask for proof of this coverage.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance – Worker’s compensation insurance provides medical and wage benefits to employees who are injured or get sick at work. More information on this coverage can be found at myfloridacfo.com.
Pesticide Applicator License – A pesticide applicator license is required for individuals spraying pesticides in and around your home. Some licenses allow the applicator to spray your entire landscape while others only grant the applicator to lawfully spray ornamental beds and shrubs around the home. You can search for applicators by name or license number at Licensed Pesticide Applicator Search.
Fertilizer Applicator License – A fertilizer applicator license is required for individuals applying fertilizer to turf and ornamentals on your property. You can search for applicators by name or license number at Licensed Pesticide Applicator Search.
FNGLA – The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) certifies landscape professionals on their landscape installation and/or maintenance expertise. You can search for certified individuals at FNGLA Certifications.
FFL – The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program offers a Florida-Friendly Landscaping Certified Professional (FFLCP) certification to individuals are familiar with the latest UF/IFAS recommendations and who implement the 9 Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles by using environmentally friendly landscape management practices. A list of certified individuals can be found at Florida-Friendly Landscaping Certified Professionals Listing.
ISA – The International Society of Arboriculture certifies landscape professionals and arborists on their expertise on tree care and installation. You can search for certified arborists at Certified Arborist Search.
In addition to checking for accreditations, a number of questions can be asked to determine if a company meets your needs. These questions will help determine whether the company follows environmentally friendly landscape management and installation practices.
Does the landscape professional understand irrigation system design and know how to calibrate an irrigation system?
Does the landscape professional maintain mowing and pruning equipment and tools to make clean cuts?
Does the landscape professional maintain turf at the appropriate height for the species/cultivar being grown?
Does the landscape professional follow UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations for fertilizer rates and products?
Does the landscape professional apply fertilizer only when turf and ornamentals are actively growing?
Does the landscape professional use soil tests to help determine fertilizer needs?
Does the landscape professional regularly check turf and ornamentals for insect pests and diseases?
Does the landscape professional follow recommendations for plant installation and spacing?
These are just a few things to consider when hiring a landscape professional/company. After reviewing qualifications and asking tough questions you’ll also want to consider cost. Make sure to consider the scope of work of the companies that gave you quotes. For more comprehensive guidelines, please check out the UF/IFAS Publication Guidelines for Hiring a Florida-Friendly Landscape Professional.
Some very exciting things have come from all the computer time that COVID-19 forced upon the University of Florida technology specialists – new updated websites. If you haven’t searched for UF publications or Florida-Friendly Landscaping advice in a while, you will be pleasantly surprised at what is available.
UF/IFAS has had a long history of providing electronic access to publications, beginning in the early 1990s when it began producing handbooks of documents on CD-ROMS. By the mid-90s the Florida Agricultural Information Retrieval System (FAIRS) website went online. In 1998, the name was changed to Extension Data Information Source (EDIS) to reflect changes in its scope and function. EDIS became the single source for all Extension publications and was also adapted to permit Extension units to print documents on an as-needed basis. More recently in 2006, the UF/IFAS Solutions for Your Life web initiative has brought EDIS publications together with other valuable web resources. Now, after 25 years as a valuable online resource from UF/IFAS, the EDIS website has been rebranded as Ask IFAS. The new site is modern, mobile-friendly and will make Extension publications even easier to find. There are many new features including videos and two Ask IFAS specific indexes: Experts and Topics. The new indexes enable users to find contact information for specific agents and specialists by their name or department. Information by individual topics is easier to search also. Ask IFAS carries on EDIS’ role as a comprehensive, single-source repository of all current UF/IFAS numbered peer-reviewed publications. Each year, visitors to the EDIS website access one of over 6,500 publication titles more than 17.5 million times.
The floridayards.org website will soon be taken down. But, the nine principles, plant database and recorded useful information has been updated and posted on the Florida-Friendly Landscaping site. https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/. Information is organized by specific user groups, such as Home Landscapes, Community Landscape and Landscape Professionals. By utilizing the appropriate category, individuals can submit questions, join webinars and locate Florida-Friendly Certified Professionals. Okaloosa and Bay counties have individuals that have completed the required training. The criteria for earning Florida-Friendly status for residential or commercial landscapes is outlined on the website as well. All nine principles provide tips on ways to apply practical techniques in any landscape. Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ in a Minute is a one-minute radio show that shares practical tips on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ based on University of Florida horticultural research. The show airs twice every weekday and all shows are supported with helpful online links for more information. Shows are recorded for any time viewing at a later date. Finally, the Florida-Friendly Plant Guide can be tailored by zip code and the app for your phone is free to download. https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/resources/apps/. There is even a toxic plant and butterfly garden app.
Article written by Dr. Gary Knox, North Florida Research & Extension Center – Quincy, FL.
‘Gumpo Pink’ flowers are 3 inches in diameter and are pink with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches on petals.
In the times before re-blooming azaleas like Encore®, Bloom-A-Thon® and others, Satsuki azaleas were valued for late flowering that extended the azalea “bloom season”. Even with modern re-blooming azaleas, Satsuki azaleas still are appreciated as refined evergreen shrubs for the sophisticated garden or discerning plant collector.
“Satsuki” means “Fifth Month” in Japanese, corresponding to their flowering time in much of Japan. These azaleas were developed hundreds of years ago from their native Rhododendron indicum and R. eriocarpum. The Japanese selected cultivars more for their form and foliage than for flowering. These beloved plants were used in gardens as sheared boxwood-like hedges or pruned into rounded mounds that might resemble rocks or boulders in classical Japanese gardens. Their size and form also made them well adapted for training as bonsai. Most of the Satsuki azaleas in America were introduced in the 1930s by USDA.
Satsuki azaleas are small evergreen shrubs that flower in April and May in north Florida, long after most older type azaleas have finished. Satsuki azaleas also are known for producing large, mostly single flowers up to 5 inches in diameter in colors of white, pink, red, reddish orange and purple. Often the flowers will include stripes, edging, blotches, spots or flecks of contrasting colors (Sometimes all on the same plant!) with more than 20 different color patterns recorded.
Satsuki azaleas have an elegant subtle charm, quite unlike the flashy, over-the-top, heavy blooming all-at-once Southern Indica azaleas like ‘Formosa’ and ‘George L. Taber’. Typically, Satsuki azaleas display a few large blooms at a time, allowing one to better appreciate their size and color patterns as contrasted against their fine-textured, dark green leaves. To make up for a less boisterous display, Satsuki azaleas flower over a longer timeframe, averaging about 8 weeks, with some flowering an amazing 14 weeks. In another contrast, most Satsuki azaleas grow smaller in size, in my experience reaching about 3 feet tall and wide in a five-year timeframe. The rounded to lance-shaped leaves of Satsuki azaleas also are demure, ranging in length from just ½ inch to no more than 2 inches.
Satsuki azaleas enjoy the same conditions as most other azaleas: light shade and moist, rich, well-drained soil. Mulch regularly to maintain organic matter and help hold moisture. Fertilize lightly and keep the roots evenly moist. Minimal to no pruning is required. Satsuki azaleas also are well adapted to container culture. Their small size and fine textured leaves make these a favorite for bonsai enthusiasts since their small leaves, branching habit and mounded form naturally make them look like miniature mature “trees”.
Sources and Cultivars
Look for Satsuki azaleas in spring at garden centers or year-round at online nurseries. There are hundreds of cultivars but some popular types to look for include:
Gumpo Pink – 3-in. diameter light pink flowers with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches
Gumpo White – 3-in. diameter white flowers with occasional pink flakes and light green blotches
Gyokushin – 3-in. diameter flowers are predominantly white but with light to dark pink dots and blotches
Higasa – flowers are 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are purplish pink with purple blotches
Shugetsu – also called ‘Autumn Moon’, 3-in. diameter flowers are white with a broad, bright purplish-red border
Tama No Hada – flowers are 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are white to pink with deep pink stripes; usually flowers in fall as well as spring
Wakaebisu – 2.5-in. diameter flowers are “double” (hose-in-hose) and are salmon pink with deep pink dots and blotches; this also flowers in fall as well as spring
Chappell, M. G.M. Weaver, B. Jernigan, and M. McCorkle. 2018. Container trial of 150 azalea (Rhododendron spp.) cultivars to assess insect tolerance and bloom characteristics in a production environment. HortScience 53(9-S): S465.
‘Gumpo Pink’ flowers are 3 inches in diameter and are pink with purplish pink dots and occasional white blotches on petals.
‘Gyokushin’ flowers are white with occasional pink flecks and light green blotches.
‘Shugetsu’ has 3-inch flowers that have bright purplish-red border on edges of petals.
Galle, Fred C. Azaleas. 1985. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 486 pp.
There is an old saying that rings true in pretty much any situation – “You get what you pay for.” Gardening tools, especially pruners, are no exception. We’ve all been there, fumbling around with a pair of rusty, dull, cheap garden pruners that just barely get the job done. Unfortunately, they can also do considerable harm to the plants you’re trying to improve, as anything short of a nice, sharp, clean cut introduces the potential for insect/disease infestation and will produce a wound that takes much longer to heal, if it ever heals properly at all. You wouldn’t want your doctor to start hacking away at you with a dirty, second-rate scalpel. Don’t subject your plants to the same treatment! While I’m not advocating blowing hundreds or thousands of dollars outfitting your garden tool shed with top of the line everything, investing in a pair of quality bypass hand pruners will pay dividends many years into the future and make your gardening experience much more enjoyable!
The classic Felco #4 bypass hand pruners. Photo courtesy of Walton County Master Gardener Andrea Schnapp.
Found in three designs, from old-fashioned anvil pruners that smush and smash their way to a cut, to ratcheting pruners that make short work of larger branches but tend to be cumbersome and complicated, to bypass pruners that produce clean cuts in a scissor-like manner, hand pruners accomplish many tasks in the landscape. From cutting small limbs, to harvesting vegetables, to deadheading annual flowers and everything in between, there isn’t a more frequently used, versatile tool. Therefore, it makes sense to buy a quality pair that will perform excellently, still be snipping long after your pruning days are over (if you take care of them), and that are comfortable enough you will enjoy using them. When shopping for your pair of “forever” pruners, there are a few things to look for.
Only use bypass style pruners. Your plants will appreciate it.
Look for heavy duty pruners with frames made from quality aluminum or stainless steel; they won’t rust and won’t easily bend or break.
Buy pruners with replaceable parts. This is especially key because springs eventually rust and gum up and blades break and will eventually lose their ability to hold an edge over time (though you can and should resharpen them).
There are two commonly found brands that fit all three above criteria, albeit at different price points. For a high quality “budget” blade, various models from Corona do an excellent job for the money ($20-30) and won’t hurt your feelings too badly if you happen to lose a pair. Should you decide to splurge a little, Felco makes sharp, indestructible pruners, in multiple models around $50 to fit all size hands. Felco has become the horticulture industry standard and you’d be hard pressed to find a nursery owner or landscaper that didn’t own a pair (or two).
Corona ComfortGel bypass hand pruner. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Regardless of which brand you buy (and there are many more than the two above listed) a pair of well-made pruners, if taken care of, should last a lifetime and make your gardening experience much more enjoyable for you and your plants! If you have any questions about gardening tools or equipment or any other horticulture or agronomic topic, feel free to contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office. Happy Gardening!
A planted tree with water retention berm. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
Often, Extension agents are tasked with evaluation of unhealthy plants in the landscape. They diagnose all sorts of plant problems including those caused by disease infection, insect infiltration, or improper culture.
When evaluating trees, one problem that often comes to the surface is improper tree installation. Although poorly installed trees may survive for 10 or 15 years after planting, they rarely thrive and often experience a slow death.
Fall/winter is an excellent time to plant a tree in Florida. Here are 11 easy steps to follow for proper tree installation:
Look around and up for wire, light poles, and buildings that may interfere with growth;
Dig a shallow planting hole as wide as possible;
Find the point where the top-most root emerges from the trunk;
Slide the tree carefully into the planting hole;
Position the point where the top-most root emerges from the trunk slightly above the landscape soil surface;
Straighten the tree in the hole;
Remove synthetic materials from around trunk and root ball;
Slice a shovel down in to the back fill;
Cover the exposed sides of the root ball with mulch and create water retention berm;
Stake the tree if necessary;
Come back to remove hardware.
Digging a properly sized hole for planting a tree. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
Removing synthetic material from the root ball. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
Straightening a tree and adjusting planting height. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida – Santa Rosa County
With hurricane season upon us, evidence of preparation is all around us. Tree trimmers, contracted by the local electrical utility companies, have been removing trees, branches and other vegetation that is “too close” to power lines. Many homeowners are concerned over the practice.
In order to prevent power outages, the federally approved Vegetation Management Reliability Standard, FAC-033-2, requires utilities to manage vegetation growth along the path of power lines to prevent contact. A minimum clearance of fourteen (14) feet between trees and transmission lines in the right-of-way must be maintained at all times in order to achieve service reliability and public safety.
By Florida Statute 163, an electric utility is granted easement or right-of-way on private property in order to build and maintain electric power lines. Vegetation maintenance allows for the mowing of vegetation within the right-of-way, removal of trees or brush within the right-of-way and selective removal of tree branches that extend within the right-of-way by the electric utility personnel, licensed contractors or International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborists. The choice of how to trim trees and manage vegetation growth near a power line (e.g. pruning, herbicides, or tree removal) is primarily made by the electric utility, subject to state and local requirements and laws, applicable safety codes, and any limitations or obligations specified in right-of-way agreements. An individual may contact the utility company to obtain a copy of the right-of-way agreement for their property.
Over-pruned trees along power line
Sometimes, it appears to some that excessive vegetation has been removed. But, remember the utility companies are required to maintain the appropriate clearance “at all times.” For example, in the summer, power lines sag as they expand from rising air temperatures and heavy use. Also, wind and future growth must be taken into account when determining where to prune. Electric utilities usually prune or remove vegetation to a distance greater than the minimum clearances to account for all these factors. However, in many instances, removal of the tree would be more aesthetically pleasing and could avoid leaving a hazardous tree in the landscape. But, that is not part of their contract. That decision must be made by the property owner.
Tree trimming around power lines may seem like a local issue, but vegetation growth also affects interstate transmission lines. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electric utility service interruptions cost businesses and communities tens of billions of dollars annually. Tree contact with transmission lines was the leading cause of the August 2003 blackout that affected 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada. In fact, that particular blackout prompted Congress to pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to establish the Vegetation Management Reliability Standard.
Should we have a storm that impacts Northwest Florida, remember that the clearing of trees and branches provides faster access for first responders, line repair crews, and other emergency service personnel. So, as you watch the preparation work being done, think about where you will be planting a tree so that it can reach full maturity without threatening power lines, therefore, not requiring “ugly pruning!”
Spacing between trees and power lines
The urban forest is much different from a natural forest. Trees often develop a form that is more susceptible to breakage when grown in developed commercial and residential environments. As a result, trees need preventive pruning to develop strong structure. Research and observation show that well pruned trees can create a more wind resistant urban forest.
Pruning to create stronger tree structure is an ongoing process. To minimize the likelihood of tree damage it is necessary to reduce the length of limbs with a weak attachment to the trunk and to balance the canopy by reducing the length of limbs on the side where weight is concentrated. Do not remove interior branches, as this concentrates foliage at the tips of branches and causes them to break in strong winds.
Limbs that are more than ½ the diameter of the trunk and multiple trunks of similar size must be reduced in order to form strong branch unions and eliminate co-dominant leaders. A reduction cut is pruned back to a smaller lateral branch. Good pruning cuts avoid cutting into the collar. The collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch where it joins the trunk. The tissue is rich in energy reserves and chemicals that hinder the spread of decay.
Preventative pruning only applies to woody tree species. Palms need fronds to protect the bud and provide nutrients for growth. Arborists report that results from previous storms revealed that palms that had been “hurricane pruned” suffered more damage than those that were not pruned. Do not wait until the last minute to prepare your trees for hurricane season. Take action now. For more information on pruning visit: http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/pruning.shtml.