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The Florida vanilla vine, ‘a big climbing orchid’

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald The vanilla orchid is a tropical plant that grows in the humid rainforests of Central and South America, Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar, with a few native species in Florida. The Aztecs discovered the plant in Mexico and used the seed pods in various ways: to aid in digestion, as an aromatic, and to flavor beverages for Emperor Montezuma. The Totonaca people of the Gulf Coast of Mexico were probably the first people to domesticate vanilla. It was originally...

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Make your backyard a wildlife habitat

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Imagine sitting in your backyard as colorful birds chirp and flit about and bountiful butterflies scout blooms for nectar. With the right plan and the right plants, you can make your backyard into a wildlife habitat that will attract amazing birds and beautiful butterflies. Birds like berries and insects, so choose a variety of plants that will both produce berries and be home to small insects that birds like to eat. Native plants are always a good choice ...

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Attracting beneficial insects to your garden

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald You might ask, "Why would I ever want to attract bugs to my garden?" Many bugs are beneficial to have around your plants, and their presence can actually be a sign of a healthy, thriving plot of land. Although some have a reputation as pests, insects are also pollinators, predators and decomposers - all very important roles in a balanced ecosystem. Aside from their reputation as pests, insects are also pollinators, predators and decomposers....

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Carambola: A Star(Fruit) on the Wall

Sunday, March 10, 2013

If you have a modest yard with little space, but want fruit trees, the solution could be as elegant and simple as a star fruit espalier. What is an espalier you may ask? Well, simply think about a grape vineyard and you are home. This system will provide a novel use of this dooryard plant and serves as an effective design component in your yard. It can even cover up some unsightly or undesirable section of your home garden....

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Tamarind

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Each person born on tropics has a story to tell about the tamarind. As tamarind season approaches on the Eastern plains of Colombia, women start the harvest to make “tamarindada” to offer the thirsty farmers following an intense day of work. In Trinidad and Jamaica, tamarind is a popular refreshing snack. Asians, particularly in Thailand and India, have a long tradition of eating and cooking with tamarind. So many people it seems use this fruit to create delicious salsas, chutneys and sauces....

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Making Cacao Growing a Piece of Cake

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chocolate really does grow on trees; although not as little chocolates wrapped up in foil. Chocolate comes from the seeds of the understory tree Theobroma cacao, a tropical rainforest species closely intertwined with the needs of mankind. Cocoa cultivation began in the Americas by the hands of the Maya in Central America, ca. 1500 BC. The Maya attributed divine origin to cocoa, being brought down from heaven by their God Quetzacoatl. The cocoa beans were so precious in fact that they were used as a currency...

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Fruit Trees Take Wing in the Home Garden

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The butterfly garden has taken South Florida gardening by storm. One can scarcely drive by a South Florida elementary or middle school without taking note of the butterfly garden, alive with food plants for caterpillars. But alas, what about the adult butterfly - the object of our fascination. Shouldn’t we provide nectar and shelter for them? It is our quest to help the adult butterfly within the home garden to find nectar and shelter, further enhancing our environment and our viewing pleasure....

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Living and Mulching in Three-quarter Time

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It is time to face facts. Our soils are shallow and made up of mostly nutrient poor rock or sand. We have a monsoonal climate with a rainy summer and dry winter; summers bring the threat of tropical cyclones and winters, the occasional killing frost. But remember it is paradise, if you change your stride and garden to a slightly different beat - mulching....

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Spanish Lime

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Despite the Spanish limes common name, they are not limes at all and are actually more closely related to lychees and longans. The Spanish lime is native to Colombia, Venezuela, West Indies and the Bahamas. It thrives in the warmer parts of  Florida with trees growing in Palm Beach and most of South Florida. It seems to fruit most prolifically in Key West....

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Don't Fret Much Over Pests Living Off Your Palm Trees

Thursday, September 20, 2012

As published in the Miami Herald After two consecutive chilly winters, a mild winter was essential this year to the health of our more cold-sensitive palms. But a warm winter coupled with our South Florida summers almost always leads to increased pest populations. Just as palms suffer with a cold winter and flourish with a warmer one, so do insects. Our palm collections are rebounding after the mild winter, but so are the pests. This season is bound to be pest-infested. A few usual ...

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