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Fun with Old Christmas Trees

Monday, January 6, 2014

How sad to discard an old Christmas tree! If you have the time and energy, I suggest the following: Take the tree into your yard and using a handheld clipper, trim off as much of the foliage as you can. Or even better, use an electric hedge trimmer. Cut the branches into smaller pieces and spread it around between plantings to act as mulch. It'll keep down weeds while decaying and adding nutrients into your soil. Alternately, you can toss the cuttings into your compost. Now...

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Ready for the cold?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Our unusually rainy and warm November and December have fattened our tropical plants, but also made them more vulnerable to a sudden drop in temperature, predicted for tonight. Water plants well as they will be better able to withstand low temperatures than dry plants. Putting container plants on the south side of the house can help protect them from the wind that accompanies a cold front. Drop hanging baskets to beneath a tree and cover with a sheet. Wind may be more damaging than cold...

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For your 2014 to-do list

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Boats killed fewer manatees this year than last. That's the good news. The bad: more than 800 of Florida's manatees died in 2013, a record number. Everywhere, the environmental news is grim. And yes, governments, corporations, etc., must make the big fixes, but it's time all of us did our part. So here are five New Year's resolutions you may wish to jot down. *Learn to turn off your irrigation system after rain. Where I live (Coconut Grove), home sprinklers run no matter...

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A David Fairchild collected plant is something to see!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One of my personal favorite trees is currently flowering in Fairchild. It is Pittosporum moluccanum. Our tree was grown from seeds which were originally collected in 1940 by Dr. David Fairchild on Tagapulo Island, Samar Sea in the Philippines. Our tree, now 73 years old, is less than 20 feet tall. The clusters of small white flowers perfume the surrounding area. If you would like to see this plant, just walk on the tram road a little south of the overlook wall. Your ...

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How to Attract Painted Buntings to Your Yard

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I will never forget the first time that I saw them. They were almost too colorful to be believed! My jaw dropped with amazement in the vision before me. Here was a small bird with an iridescent violet-blue head, green back and cherry-red chest and under belly. I was watching a male Painted Bunting at a feeder at the edge of Castellow Hammock. There were other males and also some similar-sized birds that were a muted, soothing green. I later learned that these were called greenies and ...

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Of seedpods and seabirds

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An amazing number of seedpods onthis clump of Oeceoclades maculataorchids growing in oak leaves. Oeceoclades maculata, a terrestrial orchid found in shady forests along the northern Kwa-Zulu Natal coast of South Africa, made itself at home in Florida about 4 decades ago. It loves to appear in mulch, in leaf litter beneath oak trees and in shade. As I was cleaning up the garden for the holidays, I found a nice clump with more than 30 seedpods. It has steadily moved north from South Florida ...

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A Rare Bird— La Sagra's Flycatcher

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I had an impromptu bird walk yesterday. After reading about a rare vagrant bird being spotted at nearby Matheson Hammock Park, I thought about going to look for it, since it was reported to be close to the Fairchild visitor center. It's a rather small, plain looking bird, the La Sagra's flycatcher (Myiarchus sagrae), but one sought after by birders since it is rarely seen in South Florida, usually content to stay put in its native Cuba, Bahamas, and Grand Cayman. I was doubting my...

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Orchid alert

Monday, December 2, 2013

Over the past week, we have noticed some disturbing signs in our orchid houses. The phragmepidiums and paphiopedilums have more yellowing leaves than usual, and the cattleyas and even the phalaenopsis orchids have some scale. Oncidiums and some cattleyas bulbs are showing some brown, soft tissue at the base signifying rot. This is the result of the weather, which has been rainy and humid while the light has turned the corner and become less intense winter light. Without good air circulation ...

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The latest fall (orchid) fashion on display

Friday, November 15, 2013

Have I been sleepwalking through recent orchid shows or have I just overlooked what is happening to Phalaenopsis orchids these days? At the Fall Orchid Festival now underway, I reignited my appreciation for these orchids. The show is in the Lakeside Marquee Tent, and tabletop displays are fashioned into islands of glorious flowers. A Phalaenopsis hybrid that shows off thelatest breeding trends. Phalaenopsis orchids have become America's favorite pot plant. Maybe because they are sold ...

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What's in a Name?? DNA has the answer

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vanda orchids have been put under the DNA microscope and new names continue to appear while old names disappear. Here are some changes that may be adopted when volume 6 of Genera Orchidacearum is published next year. The changes were approved by the Royal Horticulture Society's Orchid Hybrid Registration Group. If you Google "Orchid Review Supplement," you will find the RHS listing of new hybrids as well as the latest list of recent taxonomic changes. Another Web source for...

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