Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spring Planting in the Gardens

With the arrival of the rainy season, we have been busy planting and refreshing our garden beds. Last fall and early this year, I obtained several new plants for the collection from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Montgomery Botanical Center, and Silent Native Nursery/Pro Native Consulting. Many of them have been in our nursery holding area patiently waiting to be outplanted into the gardens. We carefully plan where we want to plant each different species based on the amount of sunlight the plant will receive, how much water it needs, whether it fits into the theme of the zone, and other considerations depending on the species. We must have space for the adult plant’s roots and branches so we take into consideration what is growing nearby that may compete with the new plant. In certain zones, we may remove a plant that is old and tired to make space for a new one, or we may rearrange a zone to accommodate new specimens.

Our gardens are divided into over 40 zones, each of which has a theme: fragrance, color, tropical-wet (large-leaved exotics), tropical-dry (succulents), native plants, palms, bamboos, etc. Almost all of our plants have a human use so our ethnobotanic theme is woven into each zone. As we find new plants we want to display and add to our collection, we must first make sure we have room for it. For now, we are focusing on small trees, shrubs and groundcovers since we are out of space for large trees at the moment. This is challenging since we have several beautiful palms we would like to incorporate into the collection: Copernicia berteroana, Pseudophoenix sargentii var. saone, and Sabal domingensis. Luckily, they are only seedlings and will take several years before they are large enough to plant in the ground so we have time to plan.

I walk the grounds regularly, often with our director, Joe Harris, to review changes and ideas and to check on the health of recently planted specimens. Once we decide on an idea, I talk to our grounds director, Veronika Milar, about the changes to be made and she makes it happen. When I have time or need a break from the office, I work in the gardens planting and pruning specimens. Everything we plant or relocate is recorded and added to our database to keep our records up to date. Once new plants are accessioned in our database, I can print and order accession tags and our lovely display labels directly from our records. Thank goodness for our previous Associate Director, Rick Hederstrom, who set our system up with all this in mind.

As an example of our prep work, our newest bed in Zone 20 has been in flux for several months. We removed a mature sea-grape (Coccoloba uvifera) tree in December of last year, which provided shade to the gallery and office entrance. Our practice of displaying orchids nearby has been on hold due to the increase in sunlight and plants being sunburned (plants can get a sunburn or bleach-out like anything else with too much sun exposure). We thought there might be enough shade cast on the new bed from nearby mahogany trees so we planted a few ferns hoping to establish a primitive plant display with ferns, whisk-fern, and horsetails. We installed a short rock wall to protect plants in the bed from the nearby dryer vent and to train small ferns to climb along. I researched ferns from dry climates by contacting colleagues in California who grow and exhibit xerophytic ferns, we shopped for native ferns (without much success), and finally settled on a sampling of plants to see how they would fare: gnetum tree (Gnetum gnemon), native Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), silver polypody fern (Phlebodium aureum), and a crocodile fern (Microsorum musifolium). Two months and several unhappy ferns later, we decided to change course and plant sun-loving, pollinator-friendly, native plants. We have focused on butterfly and bee nectar plants with only a couple of butterfly host plants, as there are others in nearby zones. The plants are settling in nicely and the bed is now almost complete. This will be a great talking point on our TYUP tour to draw attention to gardening with native and pollinator-friendly plants. The ferns were transplanted into another zone in the shade and are doing much better. There are many different species of ferns in south Florida, several of which are endangered due to habitat loss. Once our shady fern grotto is complete we should have another welcome addition to the TYUP.

You can find a map of our garden zones and our complete inventory of everything that has ever been planted in the gardens on our website here.

This photo and below are two shots of our newest, pollinator-friendly bed
Note the rock wall to block hot air from the dryer vent
Several happy ferns in the grotto

We planted a Caryota mitis or clustered fishtail palm where the royal poinciana used to reside

Our hidden-in-plain-site pet gator has new neighbors of dropseed grass (Sporobolus virginicus) and quailberry (Crossopetalum ilicifolium)

Emily B. Magnaghi
Associate Director

No comments:

Post a Comment