February 2016 Newsletter

We have said good-bye to 2015 - a year that brought us our warmest December since weather records have been kept and also the second warmest November. Then, we made it through January, which should be our driest month, but which brought more than 8 inches above the average rainfall. Insects have been in abundance since cold weather has not been around to decrease the populations. Aerial spraying for mosquitoes in Palm Beach County was still being done in December for only the second time on record. So, we must keep an extra watchful eye on our garden for those pesty little guys that hide under leaves and in inconspicuous places.

Winter Color
Winter color is hard to achieve in the garden. Except for seasonal annuals that have to be planted yearly, there are a few perennial plants that provide amazing color displays during the winter and early spring months:

Brunfelsias are one of the most spectacular. The grandiflora, commonly known as 'Yesterday Today & Tomorrow', has flowers that start out as purple, turn light blue, then fade to white in a two-day period. This large shrub can reach 12 feet in height. The australis species, or 'Morning Noon & Night', has the same color flowers, but blooms in cycles throughout the year. It is also a smaller shrub which can be maintained at 5 to 6 feet.

Aphelandra 'Panama Queen' is another visual stunner with its large torches of coral colored bracts. Purple flowers then emerge from each bract creating a magnificent contrast of purple and orange colors on the same bloom. This Central-America native is a good shade garden specimen which needs to be covered or brought inside if temperatures fall below 40 degrees for extended periods.

Clerodendrum smithianum is known as 'The Lightbulb' plant. This prolific bloomer produces, mainly in winter months but sporadically throughout the year, cascades of white flowers that can be over a foot long. This plant can be maintained at 4 to 6 feet. It prefers filtered light, but can also be grown in full sun. This Clerodendrum makes an excellent specimen in the ground as well as in a large pot. Protect it from temperatures below 40 degrees.  

Yard Maintenance
Ornamental grasses are common in South Florida landscapes. Now is a good time to cut grass clumps down to six or eight inches above ground. This allows you to clear out the old dry blades of dead material plus promotes new growth that yields fuller clumps in the spring. For woody trees and shrubs, it is also a good time to remove dead wood, crossing branches, and generally clean out under the plants. This enables your springtime fertilizer to make ground contact instead of being on top of dead leaves.

This time of year when temperatures are not scorching hot, horticultural oils are a good choice to get rid of the critters hiding under the leaves or in inconspicuous places. Always apply during the coolest part of the day, i.e., early in the morning or at the end of the day. Horticultural oils work on contact so be sure to apply on the bugs themselves. 

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