Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Jacksonville Zoo Horticulture Service!

At our local Chinese New Year celebration, we bid on a silent auction for the donated services of the Jacksonville Zoo's own Director of Horticulture and we won! We have a very SMALL yard, "zero lot-line" type yard. We have some common areas that we help maintain and on our side lot and backyard. We were so pleased with Bob's visit (and we learned about his daughter adopted from China - we are so lame for not knowing about his family; there are so many great families that we mingle with at Chinese New Year but never get to know).

Bob Chabot - Director of Horticulture, Facilities and Exhibits

Bob has worked in public horticulture for the last twenty two years.  He was Curator of Horticulture for Zoo New England in Boston for ten years, Director of Horticulture at Roger Williams Botanical Garden in Providence, R.I. for three years, and joined the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 2005.  Bob oversees the development and management of the gardens, exhibits, grounds, and facilities. He also participates in design and implementation of the Zoo’s Master Plan. Bob is Past President of Greenscape of Jacksonville and served for several years on the Association of Zoological Horticulture board of directors.

On Wednesday, March 30th, Bob came by our home and we dove into plant identification and could not believe all the bad plants we have in our yard. He showed us the invasive plants that should be removed from our yard (anytime a plant says "rhizomes" that means it spreads). We couldn't stop talking and asking questions, so interesting. 
So here's the bad news first. Join us by identifying your yard plants and removing the invasive ones.

First invasive plant: Non-Native, invasive spreading bush in Florida, will removed: Nandina domestica, commonly called heavenly bamboo, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that is ornamentally grown for its interesting foliage and its often spectacular fruit display. It is native to Japan, China and India. This is a rhizomatous, upright, evergreen shrub that typically grows to 4-8’ tall and to 2-4’ wide. We recognize it's red berries. Nandina is considered invasive in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. It was placed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s invasive list as a Category I species, the highest listing.
Second invasive plant to be removed: Ruellia Simplex/Mexican Petunia. Mexican-petunia is highly invasive and since 2001 it has been listed as a Category 1 invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, described as “plants that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives”. Mexican-petunia is able to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions including variations in light, temperature, and moisture. Other characteristics that make wild Mexican-petunia a successful invasive are its rapid growth rate, affinity for disturbed locations, prolific production of seed, and lack of germination requirements such as scarification or stratification. Established plants can further spread by rhizome production. Mexican-petunia can also re-sprout from crowns when cut back or killed back by frost. Read more here:
Stock photo of ruellia:
Third invasive plant: We have a Florida running type of bamboo, with long, cord-like underground stems called rhizomes, that colonize large areas underground and send up new shoots many feet from the parent canes, forming a grove of widely spaced canes. We will dig up and kill with spot treatment of round-up!
Fourth invasive tree: Somewhere in the photo above is our camphor young plants. Camphor tree is very invasive in Florida and is known to be pushing out native plant species needed by our native animals. If you're committed to native Florida gardening, you really shouldn't keep it in your yard - the seeds are easily spread by birds to other areas. We don't have a tree anymore just lots of young bushes taking over the back yard. All will be removed. Below is a stock photo, the plant is known as "cinnamon's smelly cousin", so go crush a few leaves to smell for yourself.

These next two photos are of another spreading plant that Bob said keeping one may be fine. The name  is Chinese Rice Paper Plant. Since it is a fast grower, we will pull up new growth as it spreads.
A small one popping up in our yard - it was removed!
Fifth invasive tree: We called it the Chinese tree, when it is actually the Golden Rain tree from China; and is most striking in the fall with its large clusters of showy yellow flowers. These are followed by 2" red-purple seed pods, three-compartment, bladder-like structure full of seeds. In warm climates seed is produced in great quantities and there are always seedlings beneath a mother tree. The tree is invasive under these conditions. We have tons of these seedlings popping up everywhere after we had the main tree removed. This will take a while to get rid of them all! Stock photo of more mature tree:

Bob gave us many great suggestions for new plants (and an edible one - a small blueberry bush!):
We will be planting new under growth around our citrus trees: Secretia Purple Queen: Tradescantia pallida is a species of spiderwort (a genus of New World plants) more commonly known as wandering jew, a name it shares with the closely related species T. fluminensis and T. zebrina. Other common names include purple secretia, purple-heart,[2] and purple queen. It is an evergreen perennial plant of scrambling stature, distinguished by elongated, pointed leaves - fringed with red or purple - and bearing small, sterile three-petaled flowers of white, pink or purple. Plants are top-killed by moderate frosts, but will often sprout back from roots
FERNLEAF BAMBOO (Bambusa multiplex ‘Fernleaf ’) is a CLUMPING bamboo whose tiny ornate leaves are suggestive of fern fronds, making it an outstanding accent plant. Grows to a height of 20 feet in sun/bright shade.

Along our screen porch, where there are poorly growing hydrangeas, we will plant variegated shell ginger. Uses include border, mass planting; accent; cut flowers.
The Darrow's blueberry plant description can be found on the Florida Native Plant Society page. It is only two feet height, provides fruit, will spread and is noted for: showy flowers, showy fruits, interesting foliage. Darrow’s blueberry, Vaccinium darrowii, is closely related to the other blueberries you know and love, but this little gem of a shrub is highly ornamental and will fit in with any landscape scheme. This compact shrub stays usually stays under three feet tall and wide, making it a perfect size for the home landscape. The small evergreen leaves emerge with a delightful pinkish tinge. In spring, pinkish white small flowers emerge and are followed by small but delicious blueberries. Darrow’s blueberry is a Florida native so it is perfectly adapted to our environmental conditions.

In the very back yard, next to a large boundary block wall, as a ground cover, we will plant the Asiatic Jasmine. Asiatic jasmine is an evergreen, vine-like woody plant that is commonly used in Florida landscapes due to its hardiness and drought tolerance. Native to Japan and Korea, Trachelospermum asiaticum is a low maintenance ground cover that is great for mass plantings and turf-grass alternatives. This will be good as our new puppy will be in the back yard occasionally. More about this plant on Florida Gardening Solutions web page. Stock photos:
We have one tree/shrub we are considering removing, the American Beauty tree as it drops it leaves and is very bare during our winter, but it is located right where we need some screening from our neighbors front door. We may put in the clumping bamboo as a screen instead.
He also suggested the coontie palm (that is not a palm, very slow growth, not very tall). We have plenty of Boston Fern, Cast Iron plant and English Ivy to help fill in any other spots. What a great experience!

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