April, 2010

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President’s Message

Ahhhhh.......finally warm weather is here to stay!! I never thought I'd say this, and I may take it back come July, but boy is it great that winter is over.

I hope you all enjoyed last month's speaker, Phillip Iloo of Stelmar Gardens in Homestead. I think we would all agree if we had larger pocket books we could do some real damage at his nursery! Judging from the nearly empty van he departed with, I would say some of you already started.

Unfortunately, with warm weather comes more chores.

April is one of those busy months for all us gardeners. We all scurry about clipping, mulching, fertilizing .... the list goes on and on and we still never have enough hours in the day to get it all done. This month I like to focus on getting a real good cleaning thru out my yard and applying a well balanced fertilizer. I also get excited about planting new areas. With nearly 2 acres, the sky's the limit! Don't get jealous, I still have yet to install an irrigation system and just think of me in your thoughts while I pull my 100 ft hose around twice a week! Did I happen to show you my larger biceps these past couple of years?

It was nice to see some of you at the Propagation Party Doris Happel threw last month. It is always enjoyable to see each other's yards and different ideas, and not to mention FREE cuttings! I walked away with 18 new babies for my yard, and a bucket full of Rhizomes. Thanks Doris, once again! My nearly naked yard thanks you too!

This month's speaker is Dr. George Rogers of Palm Beach State College. His lecture is titled : George Rumphius the Blind Horticulturist from Ambon. Stay tuned...

See you Monday, April 12... I will be the one wearing the muscle shirt ... look for me.

Shawna Price


When:  Monday, April, 12, 7 p.m.
Where:  Mounts Auditorium
Speaker:  Dr. George Rogers of Palm Beach State College
Refreshments:  Suellen Solodar, Zeejay Greenspan
RaffleTable:  Nancy Cohen
Badge Plant:  Doris Happel
Exchange Table:  

Around the Garden -- Serendipity

I have been doing some cleanup as I spread new mulch, cutting off winter damaged leaves of rhizomatous begonias, chopping down old canes, etc. Those of you familiar with my garden know that it is not the manicured type, rather very casual. It is also very big, and I always look for shortcuts. One of the things I do is what I call composting in place. When I cut leaves and stalks of begonias, I find a small spot nearby and place them on the ground. When I get around to mulching, I throw a little mulch on top of the yard waste. Here it is springtime, and as I work around the begonias, I am finding the things that sprouted from these piles of trash. It is no surprise that canes easily sprout when placed horizontally. But in several places, I have found sprouted leaves of rhizomatous B. 'Holley Moon', now showing vigorous young plants. The new plants sprouted at the bottom of the stem and along the stem. What a surprise! I never knew that a rhizomatous begonia stem would sprout a plant in the middle of the stem. I have potted up some of the new plants and left others right where they are in the garden. I did not find any new plants sprouted from the leaf veins.

Regarding composting in place, I must tell you that all the experts will tell you to remove garden waste to avoid diseases. That is what most people do automatically because they are neater than I am even if they never gave a thought to disease. I do not follow the expert advice. From the time I was old enough to walk, I did so beside my European-born grandfather in the garden, and later I gardened with my Dad. Both of them believed all organic material such as weeds and dead plants should be used in the garden, usually processed as compost first. I do not compost in a bin - that would be too far to walk. I do place most of the organic yard waste on the ground close to where I am working. Most weeds can be saved, but there are a few that will sprout and must be discarded. I use all palm leaves, cutting them in a few pieces. I discard most of the biggest palm stems, such as those from royals or coconut palms, but I even place a few of those on the ground near the fence. Banana leaves, traveler's palm leaves, all of those are placed on the ground and eventually covered with mulch. I also use woody shrub and tree trimmings, cut up a little. There are a few trimmings that will grow and cannot be composted in place: Angel's Trumpets (Brugmansia), gingers, acalyphas, aralias.

March is the month to fertilize. I have put it off because of the unusual cold this year, but will try to get fertilizer spread throughout the garden next week. I use palm and ornamental fertilizer everywhere three times a year, March, June, and October. Don't forget to fertilize the potted plants too with Nutricote or Dynamite.

Happy Spring!
Doris Happel

Minutes of Meeting of March 8, 2010

The meeting began at 7:40 p.m. with a welcome by President Shawna Price. She thanked members who provided refreshments: Vivian Shwartz, Hillary Berman and Maria Mitsinicos, She also recognized Tom Whelan of Art by Nature Garden Center for donating tonight’s badge plant, the thick stemmed Begonia reneformis. Shawna Price was responsible for the raffle table. There were no new members or guests.

Suellen Solodar gave the Treasurer’s Report. She asked members holding outstanding checks to please cash or deposit them.

Speaker:  Phil Iloo of Stelmar Gardens
Stelmar Gardens is a regular vendor at Mounts Plant Sales. Phil and Rob Spees have a booth located on the north side of Hutcheson Exhibit Hall. Stelmar Gardens is not open to the public but will have an open house on July 16-18, 2010.

Phil showed a beautiful assortment of orchids, begonias, hoyas, ferns and others and gave a very informative and entertaining presentation sharing his experience with each plant. He spoke about what has worked for him in the nursery where he grows his plants “hard,” meaning not pampered, so they will survive for buyers. They have green houses but these are not temperature controlled.

Stelmar Gardens carries about 150 varieties of Hoyas and they are learning about others constantly from members of the International Hoya Society. There is a lot of hybridizing going on. H. purpurea fusca is the first one Phil ever obtained – from Selby Gardens. He showed this Hoya which he originally started as a small cutting in an oak tree and it now covers the tree with hundreds of blooms at a time.

Hoyas come from throughout Southeast Asia from sea level up to 4000 foot altitude. Many are temperate and need cool temperatures so they have a hard time surviving long in South Florida. Some hoyas are quite tender and sensitive to cold. Some like it bone dry.

Hoyas’ flowering period is long. When finished flowering, the flowers should not be cut off because the plant will flower again on the same spike. Hummingbirds like them.

H. carnosa is one of the variegated varieties. There are miniature ones like H. curtsi. He showed one growing together with an orchid. He uses Fafard 2 as a potting medium. Plants should be fertilized a little and left alone. The medium will eventually break down. He advised owners to take cuttings to keep plants going.

Phil showed one of his favorite begonias, a beautiful, fragrant, cascading Tom Anderson hybrid, and a Selaginella, Siam Star, which he especially likes for its perfectly symmetrical form. He recommends it for a ground cover or in terrariums.

Showing a rare species of cattleya, he suggested that they often do better on plaques than in pots, like in the wild, growing on the trunk of trees or on the bark of a tree fern. Many are blooming now. He likes to use little “tea bags” (made with panty hose) of slow release fertilizer or pockets of coconut fiber with fertilizer inside – tucked in between the tree trunk and plant. One can also liquid feed. Most orchid roots want to hang free.

Dendrobiums are getting ready to bloom now. They are easy to grow in tree fern pieces. They need a slightly dormant period with less water.

Phil cautioned that if you use organic matter in the medium, the plant will begin to decline. A layer of decomposed muck at the bottom forms, causing the roots to rot and secondary infection to move into the rest of the plant. Instead, use inorganic materials such as lava rock. He developed a new mix using a product from Minnesota and distributed in bulk by a company in the Carolinas called Stay Lite. He mixes this ½ and ½ with charcoal. It is very light and porous and is superior to lava rock producing phenomenal root growth. With this material, you water well and no water or residue stays in the pot.

With phalaenopsis, if you have multiple spikes on one plant they won’t bloom at the same time. To have multiple spikes in bloom, several plants must be combined in one pot.

Oncidium needs to dry out quickly. Like species dendrobiums they will do well mounted on wood such as oak, lychee, etc. The problem with baskets is that either they are too expensive or they decompose quickly. Hybrids do better in pots.

With all of the plants, feed on a regimen to keep them blooming. Phil suggests Peter’s 20-20-20, fish emulsion, organic seaweed in rotation with slow release fertilizer. He recommends leaching with plain water. If a show is approaching, boost with low nitrogen fertilizer three times, once a week, then leach with plain water until flowering in six to eight weeks.

Showing a Mokara x Vanda cross from Thailand/Singapore, Phil explained that roots should be in the ground a few inches. They will flower constantly. They are cold sensitive and should be brought indoors during a cold spell. Since these need some soil, us ¼ charcoal, ¼ rock, and ½ fafard. He further commented that Vandas need a lot of water, especially in summer. The Mokaras take full sun and are used for cut flowers. They come in many colors including red, pink, blue, and striped (Anantheras).

Epidendrum radicans - orange grows well in full sun. Hybrid epidendrums need part shade. Ferns - C. veneris is the best maidenhair for South Florida. It creeps while other types clump. It likes shaded moist areas. Silver fern will naturalize. There is also a gold one. Butterfly orchid will flower continuously once it begins to bloom.

Species phalaeonopsis prefer growing on wood. These are fragrant and produce kikis on their roots. The leaves grow 2-3 feet long and have a branching inflorescence. If you have a dying phalaenopsis, take it out of its pot and let it hang free on wire.

Begonia selicifolia handled the cold well. B. ‘Castaways’, an almost black-leaved type from Tim Anderson is very good for the landscape. It has peachy pink flowers.

Rhipsalis is the rage here now. It first became the rage in Europe, then in Canada and finally in the U.S. You’ll see it growing in fancy homes, buildings have 20 foot walls of plants growing in sphagnum moss. Tuck these in the fork of a tree. R. grandiflora has large flowers. R. beichelii prefers partial shade. R. culiciana hangs 12 feet down and is spectacular when in bloom.

All plants discussed were offered for sale.

Respectfully submitted,
Sandy Sklar, Recording Secretary
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