Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Decorating with Plants

These potted bromeliads make a great red and green display that is perfect for the holidays!
Use natural plant colors for your holiday decorating inspiration. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Landscape Design--Choosing Plants

Your landscape design is almost complete!  You have:
Surveyed your site and created a plan as well as developed an artistic design theme. 

Now it is time to pick out plants based on your color theme, design theme and site conditions.  Remember to choose plants that require minimal maintenance, create habitat, are drought tolerant and require little to no fertilizer and pesticides.
Take a look at the nine landscape zones listed below.  For each zone, you need to look for plants with specific characteristics. 
1.      Front entry and patio
Color! Specimen plants with bold forms and clumping plants that can stay neat and don’t require much pruning. 
2.   Along sidewalks and walkways
Look for plants that are low growers with clumping habits.  Try and avoid plants that will spread onto the sidewalks.
3.        Around mailboxes and utilities
Shade the air conditioner but don’t impede the flow of air.  Look for compact growing shrubs that will not require a lot of pruning.  Around the mailbox look for neatly growing plants that will not make it difficult for the mail carrier or yourself to get the mail.  Stay away from plants that attract biting/stinging insects. 
4.        Under windows
Minimize maintenance by choosing plants that will not grow higher than the bottom of the window at mature size.  Choose small trees to create shade in interior rooms. Install plants away from roof eaves and make sure that you know the mature size of the plant before you install it.
5.       Along walls
Depending on what design theme you are going for, keep plants off of walls easily by installing the right plant in the right place.  Space plants an appropriate amount away from the wall for easy maintenance.  Avoid vines that could damage the wall (such as English Ivy). 
6.       Along property lines 
If you would like to create privacy or buffers along your property, look for evergreen, upright shrubs.  Choose plants with dense foliage and consider mixing shrub types for visual interest. 
7.       Along fences
If you are trying to hide the fence, you may need to install plants on both side of the fence.  If your fence doesn’t appropriately screen what you are trying to hide, you may want to choose shrubs of varying height. 
8.       Under trees
Smaller plants will be much easier to install under mature trees.  Look for the smallest container size of the plant you want to grow.  Remember that the plants will be in dense or filtered shade so choose the plant species appropriately.  Vining groundcovers are great choices under trees. 
9.       Specialty gardens (vegetable garden, butterfly garden, rain garden)
If you are interested in a specialty garden, do some research.  Make sure you know what you need to create that garden.  For example, in a butterfly garden you need to provide food for larvae as well as adult butterflies. 
 Break down your landscape into these zones.  If you have not drawn your plants into the design, now is the time to do so.  There are a variety of tools you can use to do this.  I like to use  an architect’s circle template.  You can just draw circles (or even squares) on your plan as long as they are drawn TO SCALE!  After you get all your circles drawn, you can start researching plant material.
Choosing Plants
Do you know what plant hardiness zone you live in?  In Polk County, we are in zone 9A.  If your yard stays a bit warmer, you may be able to plant zone 10 plants with no freeze issues, but if you live in a cold spot, you may have a lot of die back in the cold months.  Generally speaking, most zone 9 plants will survive in your yard even if they freeze to the ground in the winter.  If you have a protected spot or a courtyard, that is a great place to try out tropicals (or you can put them in containers and bring them indoors in the winter).
When choosing plants you know that Right Plant, Right Place is of utmost importance.  Utilize all of the free resources when researching plants.
Take your time choosing plants.  Go back to your color combinations and design theme to make sure the plants you choose meet your criteria.  Choose plants that have minimal pest problems and will be low maintenance.  If you have questions, you can contact us at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service. 

Check back soon for a how-to guide on choosing plants at the nursery.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Water-Smart Landscape Photo Contest

EPA's WaterSense Program is conducting a photograph contest!  Do you know, or have, a landscape that:
  • Contains drought-tolerant plants
  • Has limited turf areas
  • Uses water efficiently
  • Has mulch around shrubs and trees
Submit your photo here through February 15, 2013.  Good luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Month By Month Water Conservation Checklist

Do you have an irrigation system?

Is it properly maintained and watering the correct amount? 
Use our month by month irrigation checklist to determine what you need to do to your irrigation system each month. 
Download the checklist here.