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The live oak is a Florida favorite

Monday, April 29, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald There are estimated to be more than 500 species of oaks, but if you make your home in South Florida's distinctive climate, you most likely are familiar with only one - the live oak, Quercus virginiana, the only oak in South Florida that truly becomes a tree, reaching heights of 60 feet with a spread as wide or greater. The live oak, which ranges as far north as Virginia (hence the specific epithet virginiana) and as far west as Texas, is very well...

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Tropical Apricot for South Florida

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The tropical apricot (Mammea americanais one of the best kept tropical fruit secrets of Tropical America. No relation to the true temperate apricot of the northern climes, this fruit is a bit of a challenge, but worth the effort. A handsome evergreen, it resembles a southern magnolia at first glance and naturally forms a pyramidal, pleasing canopy. The tree is densely foliaged with glossy, leathery leaves of hunter green. The tree is a great asset in the home landscape that will provide a point of pride among your neighbors. Native to the West Indies and northern South America, the tree produces large, round brown fruit, with a deep orange flesh.... 

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Edible gardens promise more than vegetables

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald At a time when my tween daughter is fully entrenched in texting and technology, some very strange words have been falling out of her mouth. "Dad, you promised we would have cucumbers this year, right?" "Dad, you are going to build that second vegetable garden bed like you said, aren't you?" "I don't think we planted enough carrots last year." She has been peppering me with these comments and questions for the last...

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Society too disconnected with nature

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Do you notice a disconnect between the natural world and our daily life? Do you wonder why obesity is quickly becoming our country's biggest health issue? Questions like these prompted author Richard Louv to coin the term "nature-deficit disorder" in response to the growing problems that stem from society's dependence on the indoors. The concept that we need to unplug and spend more time outdoors is not a recent development; botanical...

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Great bird and butterfly plants for a small yard

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Many people have a tiny yard but still want to enjoy a few plants. The ones I am suggesting need little care once established. Many have fragrant flowers and all provide food in the form of small fruit for birds. All of them may be grown easily in a shady to full sun location. A good landscape consists of several layers. Tall plants in the background with smaller shrubs in front help give a more natural, appealing design. Pigeon plum, Coccoloba diversifolia, ...

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What to do in the dry season

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Although most places across the country have four seasons complete with changing leaves, snow days and the first robins of spring, South Florida has only two real seasons - wet and dry. You should have noticed a change recently, a little coolness in the air and very little humidity. That is the signal that we are leaving our wet months - usually late May to late October - and entering into our dry season. This coincides with the rest of the...

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Beware the dangers of the string trimmer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Tools make our jobs easier, and the ability to make and use tools can distinguish us from other animals. But what if we use a tool the wrong way and actually harm something we are trying to help? That is just what happens when we use string trimmers aggressively near the bases of our trees and shrubs. String trimmers, sometimes called weed-whackers, are powerful little engines that propel a single or dual plastic string at high enough speeds to chop down ...

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Putting the right plant in the right location

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald South Florida can be a difficult place to carve out your tropical paradise, with calcareous soils, a distinct wet and dry season and a bevy of plant pests, but by choosing the right plant and putting it in the right spot, you not only conquer our poor soils and extreme rainfall patterns, you can also often forgo using supplemental irrigation, pesticides and fertilizer. Over my 20 years of writing and teaching about horticulture, that theme has run through it ...

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Garden as if life depends on it!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Have you ever thought about what happens when a native wooded area is cleared for a building site? After the trees and undergrowth have been removed, what happens to the creatures that were living in or visiting this area? The insects that fed on plants growing in the woods are gone. The birds no longer have a reason to look here for food like caterpillars and other insects because their food plants are gone. When a local habitat is removed, local ...

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The informal hedge

Thursday, March 21, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald A good hedge is a beautiful thing. In a world where we are packed together in zero lot line homes like so many sardines, hedges divide us and give us something we cherish - privacy. They can make our property a place where children can play and adults can frolic by the pool and barbeque without the prying eyes of our neighbors. When you think of a hedge, you probably think of well-manicured hedges cut at just the proper height and perfect angle. These...

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