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The truth about bugs: It's all about perspective

Sunday, August 11, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald In the world of bugs, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Not all insects are horrible. In fact, most have some redeeming qualities (except maybe bed bugs). While a bee sting hurts, bees are the world's best pollinators. And even though roaches are extremely creepy in the house, they are fabulous decomposers. It all depends on perspective. And a plant's perspective is a very important one. These bugs can be the...

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Tree ferns bring tropical Australia to your garden

Sunday, July 28, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Tree ferns look just like their names describe - tree-sized ferns, with a caudex, or trunk. They're so iconically tropical in appearance, you can't help but feel like you're in a Hawaiian rainforest when standing in their presence. You might also expect to see a dinosaur devouring the delicate fronds, since ferns in general look "primitive," and an arborescent example would certainly attract a large herbivorous reptile. The...

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A stinky family moves in

Sunday, July 21, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald They are nearly impossible to miss. They are neither plant nor animal, though they share traits of both. The bright-red globes have been popping up in gardens and mulched areas in South Florida and Gulf Coast areas for years. And they smell horrendous. Believe it or not, they are mushrooms. These fungi are commonly called lattice stinkhorn mushrooms, but are not the kind of mushrooms you would want to eat. The lattice stinkhorn mushroom (Clathrus crispus). ...

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Palms and their extreme ways of adapting

Sunday, June 30, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Summer in Miami is not for the faint of heart. If the humidity does not make you weary, the mosquitoes definitely will. South Florida natives are tough but through air conditioning, bug spray and sunscreen, we have adapted to living in a sometimes harsh sub-tropical climate. While we have changed our environment, palms adapt to stressful conditions by reacting to the environment and changing their growth habits. Palms live on every continent, except ...

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Choose an ornamental for more than just good looks

Sunday, June 23, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Beauty alone isn't always enough. If you're looking to plant an ornamental, find one that offers plenty of benefits besides a striking appearance. Years back I received a gift of a wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) dug right out of the ground and placed in a small pot. It's one of my favorite native plants, but there also happened to be an incidental and very small hitchhiker in that pot coming along for the ride: Hamelia patens, aka firebush....

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Sapodilla (Chiku) as a delicate dessert

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A combination of peach, pear, cinnamon, honey and just a touch of brandy best describe the alluring flavor of the sapodilla. Sapodilla fruit are soft and sweet, with a delicate aroma hinting of the beauty to come. The sapodilla is native to Central America, but its unique appeal carried it centuries ago to Southeast Asia, where it has undergone a wonderful transformation. The Maya described it as dainty, fragrant and well tasting - a delicate fruit indeed. Sapodilla is de ...

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Hurricane preparation for your palm

Monday, April 29, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald How should we protect our palm trees when a hurricane is approaching? Palm trees gained popularity in southern Florida not because of their ability to endure storms but because of their grace and tropical beauty. Preparing them for high winds begins long before hurricane season. Hurricane-pruning, or removing almost all the leaves, is not an effective way of preparing your palm tree for a storm. In fact, hurricane pruning can be more detrimental than ...

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Great rewards in growing vegetables

Monday, April 29, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Fall is a great time of year in South Florida as the final rains of October fall and nighttime temperatures drop low enough that you can plan your edible garden. Vegetable starts and seeds, as well as fresh herbs should all be close at hand as you get ready to plant your garden in early November. Vegetable gardening is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your garden. There is no greater return for your hard work than picking fresh ingredients for ...

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Essential tools of the trade

Monday, April 29, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald When buying garden tools, make a conscious decision to buy the best tool you can afford. Choosing the more expensive piece may save more than money. Saving a few dollars on a tool may cost you hours by making your work harder and longer. Every tool has a low grade, middle grade and a professional grade. Higher grade tools will last longer and save you money in the long run. They can also be taken apart, sharpened and cleaned, while a low-grade tool is ...

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The myriad benefits of working in your garden

Monday, April 29, 2013

as pubilshed in The Miami Herald As I write this article, a mighty mountain awaits me. In my side yard, three massive piles have merged to become my own personal Mulch Everest - the result of three truckloads of tree-trimmer goodness that were deposited just a few days ago. It is up to me to spread my Everest, and I relish the task. Not only will the mulch beautify my plantings and slowly decompose to add organic nutrients to my soil, I will also get a very nice bit of exercise. Why ...

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