Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Decorating with Plants

Everyone is looking for ways to save money this year, and what better way to save money than to look to your own yard for holiday decorating. Take a trip around your yard and look for interesting berries, evergreen or colored leaves, twigs and dried flowers to create unique home decor! Here are a few plants that are easy to grow in the yard and also can be used in holiday wreaths, garlands, tablescapes, vases, etc.!

The native Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is an attractive tree in the landscape because of the silvery underside of the leaves. This also makes it attractive when used in holiday decorating! Mix it with other evergreen leaves to make a unique wreath or garland.

Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine) provide great evergreen leaves for wreaths and garlands. Red berries are a bonus! (Look for hollies to get the red berries that will add a pop to your decorations.)

Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) will provide you with the thick, glossy leaves that make a great wreath! The cultivar 'Little Gem' is great for small yards.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are beautiful in the landscape right now! Their giant leaves have turned a brilliant red/purple. The leaves and flowers can be used in decor. The dried flowers can be use in vases, wreaths and in decorative bowls on the table.

Add a little Florida to your holiday cheer with the Silver Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens). These thick silver leaves can be use on a tabletop, in a vase or mixed with other foliage for a nice contrast. They are easy to grow in the landscape, so consider planting one this season!

All of the plants listed are Florida-friendly and easy to grow in the landscape. Consider installing one if you don't already have one in the yard. You can also scout the yard for other interesting leaves, dried flowers and foliage that will complement your holiday decorating for the right price-FREE!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Search online for Florida-friendly plants for Polk County

The Florida-friendly Plants for Polk County Yards database is now up and running on the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website. This user-friendly database is full of plants that grow in Polk County. You can search the database by plant type (groundcover, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses etc) or search by plant name. Each plant description includes a photograph and will refer you to a demonstration garden where you can see the plant growing. Also included is a list of plant nurseries where the plant can be purchased locally. There are currently sixty-five plants on the list, but we will continue to add more. All of the plants are great for Polk County IF they are installed and maintained following the Florida-friendly landscaping principles. Log on to the database at and click on the link under Polk County Plant Database.

Holiday Water Conservation Tips from the Southwest Florida Water Management District

With the holiday season upon us, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is asking residents to make water conservation a new tradition.“This holiday season it is especially important to conserve water because the District is still experiencing impacts from two years of drought and we are now in the dry season,” said Robyn Felix, the District’s media relations manager. “We can all make a difference by incorporating a few simple tips into our routines.”

During the holidays, water plays a role in everything from food preparation to the clean-up process. Appliances and fixtures such as dishwashers, clothes washers, showers and toilets are also used more often.

However, there are ways to save water while celebrating the holidays without compromising convenience and comfort.Here are six easy ways to incorporate water conservation into your holiday preparations and celebrations:

1. Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator or the microwave instead of running hot water over them.
2. Rinse vegetables and fruits in a sink or pan filled with water instead of under running water. This water can then be reused to water houseplants. A running faucet can use up to 3 gallons per minute.
3. When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water and fill the rinsing sink one-third to one-half full. Avoid letting the water run continuously in the rinsing sink.
4. Select the proper size pans for cooking. Large pans require more cooking water than may be necessary.
5. Scrape food scraps into the garbage can or a composting bin, rather than rinsing them into the sink’s garbage disposal. A garbage disposal uses up to 4 gallons of water per minute.
6. Run your dishwasher only when you have a full load. Dishwashers use between 7 and 12 gallons per load.

For more water conservation tips, information about the drought and the current water restrictions, please visit the District’s web site at

Monday, December 8, 2008

Attention Artists!

Time to paint rain barrels for Spring Obsession

If you are interested in painting rain barrels for Spring Obsession on March 14, 2009, please contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Coordinator at (863) 519-8677 ext 121 or email Entry forms can be downloaded at

This is a great project for individual students, science classes, art classes, after-school groups, art programs and anyone interested in being creative and promoting water conservation in Polk County.

How does your grass grow?

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago presents the exhibit “Lawn Nation: Art and the Science of the American Lawn.”

Artists, landscape architects and others examine the American lawn. Particularly interesting is Daphne Firos and Brian Peters "Water Wall", where they have installed 1,600 water bottles to represent an hour of lawn irrigation.

I encourage you to browse the site and get some ideas so that you can change your American lawn into an American landscape.