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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #283 - A happy visit to the Naples Botanical Garden enriches our holiday
February 16, 2017

The plan was just to have a quiet and relaxing week’s holiday. It was a great week but the friends we were staying with, being aware of my professional interests, took us to the Naples Florida Botanical Garden. It is a relatively new project and I just walked in as a paying visitor. Now, I have toured any number of public gardens and thought this would be a pleasant few hours on a weekday morning and maybe I might be happier in the pool. I was quite amazed at the quality of this garden. Part of that was the large quantity of Bromeliads and Palms, two of my favourite species. The Bromeliad collection was extensive and what fascinated me was the use of many species of Bromeliad as mass planting. Where a more northen garden might have masses of annual flowers, Naples had masses of Bromeliads. Most of them were well labeled but I was disappointed that this mass of golden leaved beauties didn’t have a label that I could find but the sun lighting up these golden delights was quite special. They had a couple of rows of small Ananas comosus which is the Bromeliad that produces Pineapples as their fruit. I think they missed a great opportunity by not having a story board that made the connection between all of the wonderful decorative Bromeliads that they were using and the fact that the common Pineapple was also a member of that same group. Typically the gift shop had a quantity of Air Plants Tillandsia spp. for sale and again they failed to mention that these increasingly popular curiosities are also Bromeliads. These are minor distractions to an amazing display.

The other plant family that was widely represented is the Palm family. It’s probably my home in the temperate world of Maple syrup that creates my fascination with Palms and their many species. Most people can recognize a Coconut Palm particularly if there is a large group of fruit hanging down from the base of the fronds. There are about 2600 species

of Palm world wide and they are an economically important family providing food, shelter and fabric in many parts of the world. They are also widely used as decorative subjects in tropical parts of the world and that is primarily where my interest lies although I do enjoy dates and coconuts. The Naples Botanical Garden was a delight for me because of its Palm collection. With 2600 species to choose from it’s hard for any collection to be called extensive or anywhere near complete but they did have a large number of species including one of my favourites Bismarckia nobilis The real delight, for me, was a planting of four trees side by side that readily displayed the dioecious (separate male and female trees) nature of this large leaved beauty. There were two boys and two girls growing in a row and the pictures show fruit being produced by the girl and the smaller pollen producing flowers of the boy. I’m self confessed plant nerd that can actually get excited about such things.

Eventually all holidays end and we have to return home. The Begonia Seeds that had germinated before I left survived my absence. They had been well watered and then put under a clear plastic lid to keep the humidity high. The Geraniums also survived and now are in need of a pruning. I take a few cuttings in the fall and then take more cuttings from these plants as they grow during the winter. That usually leaves me with more Geraniums than I actually need but throwing out good cuttings when I’m pruning them is just not something I seem to be able to do. Now to get busy with the many other seeds that need to be started. Onions and Leeks are the first to find their way into the soil and that will happen today, or possibly tomorrow. I sow them into a common seed tray and they will stay there until they are separated to be planted into the garden. I have tried planting them in individual cells but that took up too much space and didn’t seem to give me any great advantage in the garden. Some of my experiments yield great new techniques and some remain as interesting experiments and that’s gardening.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Claire Asks?The Amaryllis that we received as Christmas presents are starting to bloom beautifully. How often should I water them and can I get them to bloom again?

Ken Answers! Amaryllis will often bloom even if they aren’t planted or watered. To get the best results wait until the surface of the soil is quite dry and then water thoroughly. This will happen more frequently as the plant grows. It is quite possible to rebloom an Amaryllis just follow these easy steps and you should have success.

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