Showing posts from September, 2011

Keyhole Garden In - Lawn Out

"I didn't want grass anymore, and I didn't want a yard that looked just like everybody else's," says Diane Neill, explaining how she came to be the proud owner of this beautiful garden.  "I was interested in conserving water, tired of mowing and feeding the turfgrass, and wanted to get more enjoyment out of my outside space."

Diane knew nothing about native plants, or even about garden design; but serendipitously, her son, Brandon, who just graduated with a major in Sustainable Living, came home last spring from Iowa with lots of ideas and some awe-inspiring garden design books. He had been learning  about using planting beds, and suggested those as good alternative. Diane was intrigued with the pictures, and excited about combining flowers with edibles and herbs, but had some reservations: what would the neighbors think? Would the HOA allow it? She definitely wanted something that looked attractive and wouldn't upset the neighbors.

As they poured ov…

Florida Wildflower Symposium October 15th

The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s 2011 Florida Wildflower Symposium and Annual Meeting on Oct. 15 has adopted a hands-on format that lets participants choose from a variety of workshops and presentations.
The event at the Wekiwa Springs State Park Youth Camp, Apopka, begins with a 9 a.m. FWF member meeting. Morning presentations about wildflower trails and the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants Web site ( will follow. 

After a lunch break in the camp’s dining hall, participants will attend a workshop or presentation of their choosing. Sessions include: Native Landscaping for Fall with Dr. Craig Huegel, a naturalist, author and educator who teaches about wildlife and native plant communities. Wildflower Propagation for Home Gardeners, a workshop led by Claudia Larsen of Micanopy Wildflowers nursery.Selecting and Preparing Herbarium Specimens, led by University of South Florida herbarium specialist Alan Franck, who will teach participants about specimen sel…

National Estuaries Day Sept 24, 2011

In Celebration of National Estuaries Day, here's a second look at the projects in the Lake Worth Lagoon:

What is an estuary?

An estuary is a place where freshwater rivers, streams, and canals meet and mix with salty ocean water. This mix of fresh and salt water creates the brackish water unique to coastal estuaries and makes them among the most productive ecosystems in the world.

Why are estuaries important?

More than 70 percent of Florida's recreationally and commercially important fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish spend part of their lives in estuaries, usually when they are young. Many of these species migrate off shore to spawn or breed. The eggs develop into larvae (immature forms) that are transported into estuaries by tides and currents. The shallow water, salt marshes, seagrasses, and mangrove roots provide excellent hiding places from larger, open-water species. Some species grow in estuaries for a short time; others remain there for life. Snook, trout, mullet, j…

Shoreline Habitat in the Intracoastal Waterway

Up until a few years ago, the wakes of passing boats in the Intracoastal Waterway lapped up against the bare shoreline and seawall of the public golf course and the adjacent Bryant Park without any interferance. Now in several areas, where new living shorelines* have been installed, the wakes don't hit the seawall at all, but are absorbed by the new mangrove-covered extenstions to the seawall and new islands. Several areas of cord grass (Spartina spp) have also been planted. There are 10 acres of mangrove and nearly 3 acreas of cord grass.

These photos were taken from the Lake Avenue bridge over to the barrier island. This new bridge replaced the old draw bridge. Years ago part of the old cement bridge was left as a fishing pier, but it had become unsafe so now the rubble from the old bridge has been used as the artificial reef and the new islands. This Palm Beach County project includes not only these visible barrier islands, but aggressive action to treat storm water so that…

Invasive Exotic Plants

What defines an invasive exotic plant? Taking one word at a time:
· Exotic – the plant was not found in Florida before the first Europeans arrived.

· Invasive – the plant takes over the landscape.

So the definition becomes a plant that is not native to Florida that grows and reproduces aggressively.

Examples of invasive exotic animal species are the python, which is taking over in the Florida Everglades, and the fire ant, which we all know and respect. An example of an invasive exotic plant species is the Chinese tallow tree, brought here because of its high oil content. Its cultivation spread because of its natural beauty and spectacular fall color and is now extremely invasive in Southern forests and wet prairies. A common garden flower, the Mexican Petunia, is also an invasive exotic. It’s hard to comprehend how something so beautiful could be so treacherous. Here in Highland Lakes, we have been working to eradicate invasive exotic Cogon Grass and Primrose Willow from our lakes and…

Join the Blog Team

Shock and awe would just about describe the feeling I had yesterday as I came across a brand new shopping center here in Virginia which had to cover,  in a conservative estimate, about 30 acres. Imagine  it - 30 acres completely covered by parking and buildings without a single plant or pervious surface of any kind.  I mean not one! With all we know now about best practices. And I had to wonder: why are people surprised that heavy rains have made rivers here overflow, causing massive damage to property and life. Homes are flooded, cars have been swept away, waste water treatment plant overflows have caused campgrounds on rivers to be closed.

Stormwater runoff. I think we talk about it more in Florida than some other states do. But it’s a concept that everybody needs to understand. We can’t always have what we want! We have to pay attention to the changes we are making to our environment, changes that cancel the ecosystem services that we absolutely depend on. Those would be fresh wate…

More Buzz About Bees

Personally, I'm buzzing with irritation tonight at the park manager in Pohick Bay, Virginia, who has put out a flier for campers here with instructions on how to "re-purpose" water bottles by making them into bee traps. Can you believe it? And then waiting till they are full of bees and throwing them away. Egads!! Oh yes, he will be hearing from me (Sue Dingwell, your roving blog reporter) tomorrow. And guess what? I will be directing him here to our very own blog, where by incredible good fortune, Peg Lindsay has come to my assistance - read on!

Peg says in a report to her HOA:
I was at a meeting and one of the attendees said that our very lives and the survival of our species depend on preserving native plants and native plant ecosystems.  I thought he was a little over the top – one of those wild-eyed, proselytizing environmentalists.  Now, I’m not so sure.

Last May I attended the annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference. Two of the speakers presented topics abo…

The St. John's-Worts: Under-Rated Landscape Plants


 We have several species of St. John's-wort that have planted themselves on our property from groundcovers in our lawn to this shrub with its small yellow flowers, gracefully arching stems and reddish peeling bark. Recently, I decided that it was time to identify which Hypericum it is. So I carefully observed the flowers:

If you're serious about identifying Florida's plants, "Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida" by Richard Wunderlin and Bruce Hansen, is THE authoritative text. These plant taxonomists are also the experts that provide data for the online Atlas of Florida's Vascular Plants, which we often cite as our authority for mapping which counties plants occur and when identifying whether a plant is native or not.

Here is their list of Hypericum for Florida. Without the book, you could link to all 31 of the species, look at the photos, and try to decide, but the photos may or may not provide enough detail to correctly ID the plant. The book …