Hours: Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. * Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. * Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.* Closed on Mondays

1515 N. Dixie Highway in Lake Worth, FL--just south of West Palm Beach. (Click for Map) * info@ameliascapes.com * 561-540-6296

From the...


SCOTT SIMMONS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

SMARTYPLANTS

cultivates a Zen approach to plants

SCOTT SIMMONS / FLORIDA WEEKLY
Most folks grew up with the neighborhood garden center. Remember those? Local folks sold flora guaranteed to bloom where it was planted.
Season ended for many of those local garden centers in the ’80s and ’90s, as big-box retailers came to the fore, often offering plants to the public at prices less than what those local retailers were paying wholesale.
But big-box retailers aren’t for everyone, and that’s where SmartyPlants comes in.
The Lake Worth store takes a Zen approach to garden centers, courtesy of owners Paul Harding and Marta Edwards.
New Age music plays in the background as wind chimes catch the breeze. Water splashes in the fountains as customers stroll among the plants. You can design your own space, or you can call on SmartyPlants to do it — the firm designs and maintains landscapes across South Florida.
Mr. Harding and Ms. Edwards took a break to share tips.
What tips would you offer customers to begin the process of decorating with plants?
Landscaping is truly decorating with plants and it is like anything else — there is a learning curve if this is something new to you. It is important to select a landscape theme that is congruent with the style of the house to be landscaped. Drive around to get ideas or the feel you want and determine how much maintenance you are willing to undertake. Explore Florida’s native plants as alternatives and consider creating a garden that brings butterflies and birds to your yard.
What are some questions clients should ask before spending a lot of money on plants?
The old adage “right plant, right place” is so important. Are the plants you like appropriate for the exposure and conditions throughout the day? Are those plants susceptible to pests? Also, when and how to properly prune and fertilize is important to know and implement so your plants will perform and meet longterm expectations.
Is there a favorite trend in tropical plants right now?
Tropical plants have always been popular and will continue to be popular especially for people who live here seasonally. They want lush colorful gardens, and who can blame them? For Floridians, there is a definite increase in desire to create butterfly gardens. Numerous people come in asking for butterfly host and nectar plants which is wonderful. We see a less steep trend but a noticeable one to create gardens that incorporate South Florida native plants in the landscape — they require less care in the long run than their tropical counterparts. And finally, a markedly upward trend can be observed in decorating with succulents. This can be a challenge in South Florida during wet summers, but it can be done. Succulents perform especially well during hot dry summers like we have been experiencing.
Which trends are you glad to see go away?
Sod! We are seeing more and more people give up on sod after replacing patches of their grass or replacing the entire yard multiple times. People say, “I want to sod the yard because I want low maintenance…” but this is inaccurate. Sod and low maintenance in the same sentence is an oxymoron. Sod requires regular water, regular fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide applications plus weekly mowing, which is a lot more than many shrubs or ground covers need.
Also, we’d like to say goodbye to the concept of creating a monoculture hedge, which entails using one plant along the entire length for screening or decorating purposes. Trimming is required less often on a non-monoculture hedge and plants may be allowed to grow in their natural shape and size. ¦
SmartyPlants 1515 N. Dixie Highway Lake Worth (561) 540- 6296; amelias- smartyplants.com

Summer Survivors

What plants can make it through our super hot summer months? What new plantings won't require daily watering? What plants don't require monthly pruning or maintenance? SmartyPlants offers several of these hardy summer survivors that don't require tons of water and can become established in a few weeks.  

Clusia guttifera (or small-leaf Clusia) has become extremely popular because of its low input demands. It is also a replacement for Ficus benjamina hedges that were decimated by White Flies. For better long-term results, use this plant to create a hedge that has enough room to grow in all directions as it can get quite large. 

All three varieties of Schefflera arboricola are also in demand - and for good reason. The solid green 'Dwarf Schefflera' makes an excellent dense hedge. 'Gold Capella' is a cultivar in which the green leaves are marbled with golden yellow variegation. The third type is the more common 'Trinette'. It is widely used in the South Florida landscapes as hedging, specimen bushes, or potted specimens. Its leaves are mottled with ivory colored variegation patches. This variety is also slightly smaller than the other two.

 Ficus 'Green Island' has also become a widely used shrub. It is nothing like its Ficus relatives that grow huge or search for water sources. It can be kept as a small border hedge; a mass bed planting; or a medium primary hedge, topiary, or container planting.

Two excellent choices for small flowering plants are Bulbines and Aptenias. Bulbines are semi-succulent spiky plants that love sandy soil and don't mind high heat. There are two varieties - the giant yellow and the 'Hallmark Series' which have orange and yellow petals on the flower spikes. The Aptenias or Baby sun roses are excellent used as ground cover or hanging plants for containers. Baby sun roses have yellow or red flowers; they are also available with variegated leaves. Bulbines and Baby sun roses are both salt tolerant. 

To continue our discussion of plants that are good summer survivors and good choices for hedges, next month we will feature plants that are native to South Florida that fit these criteria.




 Plant of the Month

Elaeocarpus decipiens or Japanese Blueberry is an underused plant because not many people have discovered it. This beautiful accent plant requires low maintenance, is a slow grower, and its narrow growth habit fits almost anywhere even 4 feet from a house foundation. Small white flowers can be observed in spring followed by dark blue inedible berries in fall and winter. The dense foliage is a lush deep green with the occasional bright-red leaf that signifies new growth. It can have a natural growth or be totally sculpted. It makes a great contrast with plants like Clusia or other bright-green foliage plants. Give this unusual and versatile plant a try as a specimen or focal point or with other plants as part of a screening hedge. 





Three Guaranteed "Conversation Starters" for Your garden

With a three-day weekend coming up for Memorial Day (Monday, May 30th), you may find time to add an interesting plant or two to your garden. Here are three guaranteed "conversation starters" that we can offer you:

Portlandia grandifloras, commonly known as Bell Flowers,
are native to the islands of Cuba and Jamaica. Regarded more as collectible garden specimens, these plants delight us with highly-fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers from May to August, and fruit appears in December and January. Their growth habit can be as a small tree or a shrub up to 15 feet tall. Many people think they are related to Angel Trumpets, but they are actually related to Gardenias. Their vanilla-scented white or red flowers make a great addition to aroma gardens. Oh so sweet..... 


Justicia corumbensis or 'Summer Sun' Justicia averages 3 to 4 feet in height and spread, which makes it a good choice for the middle or lower layer in a tiered garden. It is a good choice for informal and tropical gardens as well. The orange, tubular flowers, which bloom throughout the year with the heaviest period in spring through summer, are excellent butterfly and hummingbird attractors. This Justicia can do well in partial sun as well as full sun. It is native to Mexico, and it is not salt tolerant. 


The Red-Vein Indian Mallow (Abutilon Striatum) is unique! With leaves like a Maple tree, this plant is also called flowering maple. It is not the leaves but the flowers however, that attract attention. The hanging, bell-shaped, yellow-with-red-veining blooms resemble Chinese lanterns. They appear all year, are edible, and are a must for hummingbird and butterfly gardens. Normally a 6-to-8-foot shrub, it can also be made into a single-trunk, small ornamental tree. It can be in partial or full sun and requires moderate water. This plant is native to South America.

Now that the rainy season has begun, add these gems to your garden and enjoy the multitudes of flowers and flying visitors this spring and summer in South Florida! 

We will be closed on Memorial Day, but watch out for our sales flyer for the upcoming weekend.


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