Archive for the ‘planting florida natives st augustine’ Category

The First Native Plant Garden: Terra Forming and Final Edition

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Brown Eyed Susans and Blanket Flower

Brown Eyed Susans and Blanket Flower in the Native Plant Garden

Back in the day there was my front yard, and we called it the Valley of Death because nothing grew there.

So we started planting Florida native and drought resistant plants in 2011, and what a difference a few years makes. We’ve got a thriving butterfly garden and several varieties of plants that grow well and don’t need watered. The front yard really looks good and the dead patches, thought not completely gone, are the minority now.

It’s like one of those science fiction movies where they “terra form” a dead planet into something thriving with life. And then Khan shows up and tries to kill Captain Kirk, but then Spock saves everyone, but I digress…

The biggest surprise is that the scarlet milkweed and porterweed, which are annuals that we planted last year, are all sprouting new growth this spring. The unusually cold winter should have knocked them out but there they are springing from the roots. I accidentally knocked the resurgent porterweed out, not realizing it was one of the plantings, but it’s got a few leaves back, so whew!

New Native Plantings

Last September I planted some Florida native viburnum in front of the garage, the most extreme edge of the front yard. But I failed to water it while still it was still in the containers, and two of the plants died before I could put them in the ground.

This spring I went to the nursery to get more in order to replant them, but I saw the mature form and didn’t like them, so instead I bought dwarf versions of the very local East Palatka (also known as “yaupon”) holly (Taylor’s Rudolph Ilex Vomitoria) and planted them in locations on the side of the house. For the two dead viburnums I planted another version of dwarf holly (Ilex Schellings) that supposedly is ideal for full sun and dry conditions. I would have bought more East Palatka but I bought all the nursery had and Ilex Schellings was the only thing left that would fit the bill.

Lastly, I added a bunch more porterweed (red and blue) because it establishes itself so easily and readily, and blooms all summer. A truly awesome plant.

Blue Porterweed and Wildflowers

Blue Porterweed and Wildflowers

The Final Plantings

The porterweed and the hollies are the final plantings I will do in the Valley. The house is on the market (and is currently under contract), so I won’t be living there any longer.

But we are starting a new project in our new place, with its own unique challenges. And I look forward to telling you about that next … stay tuned!

Click here for a link to all the Native Plant Project stories, including where and what types of wildflowers we bought, where to get them, and how to plant them!

Let us get you planted in a new home so you too can become a Florida “native!” Hire St. Augustine Team Realty! Contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate, or call (904) 377-2276.

 

 

Native Plants Update, The Butterflies Have Bloomed!

Monday, August 12th, 2013

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook and me on Google+.

Jumbotron goes into chrysalis.

Jumbotron goes into chrysalis.

Well, if you read our last post about the Native Plant Project you found out we were feverishly planting Florida native milkweed to feed hungry (monarch butterfly) caterpillars.

These caterpillars were funny. They would eat and eat and eat, strip the leaves off an entire plant then head on over to another.  In the meantime they had to avoid a hungry lizard we nicknamed “Fatboy” who liked to hang out nearby.

We called him Fatboy because he looked bloated when he would eat one of the caterpillars.

We got so worried about Fatboy we bought two extra plants and took them inside for two specific caterpillars. One we called “Jumbotron.” He was big–we figured he would be the most likely to make it to chrysalis.

The second was just an egg that I saw a mother monarch lay on one of the milkweed plants. I took the leaf in immediately and put it in water until the pinhead-sized egg hatched four days later. Then we put him on one of the inside plants and watched him grow up. We called him “Baby Boy.”

Then two eggs we didn’t notice hatched on the inside plants so we had two more caterpillars, which we also moved to other protected plants.

Then we went on vacation, and we didn’t get to see any of the butterflies break out in person. But our friend who was watching them did, and got this photo of Baby Boy becoming a butterfly!

Baby Boy emerges from chrysalis.

Baby Boy emerges from chrysalis.

Let us get you planted in a new home so you too can become a Florida “native!” Hire St. Augustine Team Realty! Just email Kate Stevens, Broker Associate, or call (904) 377-2276.

Native Plant Update: Butterflies and Herbs

Monday, June 17th, 2013

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook and me on Google+.

Here’s the latest on our Native Plants project:

Butterfly and Herbs from our native plants project. Images by Sean Hess.

Butterfly and Herbs from our native plants project. Images by Sean Hess.

We planted a butterfly mix of Florida wildflowers last fall, and early this spring a bright yellow flower called tickseed (Coreopsis gladiata) bloomed in abundance.

The tickseed has died off somewhat, looking scraggly though it is still blooming, and some blackeyed susans have popped up as well.

Keeping On The Butterfly Theme

My daughter saw the movie Flight of The Butterflies at IMAX this spring (twice), and at school they had a project where they “grew” butterflies from larvae through chrysalis and then released them.

Since we had a backlog of plants to buy for the native plant garden (I buy a plant for every sale I and my partners make), we bought a bunch of butterfly friendly plants.  Although the idea behind the plant garden was planting perrenials that would stay year after year, the butterfly garden was just too good an idea to pass up. And some of the perrenials have turned into annuals anyway…I did nickname my front yard “the Valley of Death” after all.

So we bought Gayfeather Blazingstar (Liatris tennuilfolia), Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), and Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias currassvica), all native to Florida according to Southern Horticulture and floridayards.org.

We also planted something called Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lommonii). There are some Tagetes native to Florida (and this isn’t one of them), but  my three-year old son picked it out, and hey, it’s doing a heckuva lot better than some other things I planted.

Caterpillars Come, Caterpillars Go

A few weeks after I planted things I noticed one of the scarlet milkweeds was looking pretty poorly and its flowers were gone. A day later nearly all the leaves were gone. I figured the Valley was killing it, but then I looked a little closer and discovered three monarch butterfly caterpillars were eating it!

So the next morning the only thing left was a stick, and the hungry caterpillars were busy gnawing on that. I moved them to the plant that had no caterpillars. They were making short work of that plant too, and a fourth caterpillar had joined them.

So I decided the next day I would go get more milkweed plants, one for each caterpillar.

At this point the last milkweed was a stick, with one of the caterpillars chewing away on the top. Another caterpillar was on the porterweed, trying to eat that, and the third was in the grass heading west towards the wildflowers. The last one disappeared.

I went ahead and bought five (much bigger) milkweeds, but I had to be careful…there were caterpillars on half the plants in the nursery (didn’t want to bring home more competition) and a monarch butterfly busy laying eggs on the others. Which was cool to watch.

I could only find one caterpillar when I got back, so I transplanted it to one of the new plants. The next morning he was gone too.

He and the others probably got ate. Monarch butterflies and caterpillars supposedly don’t taste very good, but as a website on the caterpillars noted, “birds and reptiles have to find that out the hard way.”

Hopefully some of those monarch eggs ended up on one of our plants and we will have caterpillars again soon.

Superheated Air, or, Why the Valley of Death is the Valley of Death

I noticed on one of my bicycle rides last week that I was getting way too hot, and not cooling well, for what should have been an easy effort.  I was riding in the afternoon in the full sun, but even in the 90s and 100s I didn’t think an easy effort should have required dumping water over my head.

So I put a thermometer that also measured humidity in the full sun near the Valley of Death, just to see what was going on…and it turns out I should have been dumping lots of water over my head while out riding in the full sun.

In full sun, mid to late afternoon, the reading was 106 degrees F, at 30 percent humidity. Far from being hot and humid Florida, in full sun it was more like the desert. The superheated air was evaporating anything it touched. Which is why the moisture gets sucked out of the plants and dirt so easily in the Valley.

After the sun fell past the trees towards sunset, the reading went to 90 F at 50 percent. In the morning, just past dawn, it was 73 F at 90 percent (the Florida I know and love).

I always thought it was just an issue of sterile soil, but its not, it’s extended exposure to the sun.

What is Thriving In the Valley

Society garlic and gaillardia (Gaillardia puchella, aka “blanket flower”) are bombproof. They survive and thrive.

The fernlike Florida native Coontie is surviving, but doesn’t seem like it has grown much, if at all, since we planted it last year.

The red fountain grass (fountain grass rubrum) is essentially a perrenial that is an annual. It’s shot up a few shoots each year to let us know it’s alive, but otherwise it’s just a hunk of dead brown grass.

The gayfeather blazingstar is failing fast, even though it’s supposed to love direct sunlight and gets plenty of water from me. Part of the wildflower mix we planted last fall includes gayfeather, but it hasn’t sprouted yet.

One of the things I discovered about the wildflower mixes we planted (a beach mix in fall 2011, a butterfly mix in fall 2012) is that all the seeds aren’t for all conditions. Some of the wildflower seeds do well in full sun, some are for wetter areas. So the mixes are designed to grow wherever they are planted, but all flowers may not grow in all areas.

The scarlet milkweed you already know about.

The copper canyon daisy is doing just fine, but it is not a native.

Herbs in the Shadow of the Valley of Death

I love to cook and the recipes I like sometimes call for fresh herbs. So I planted some.

I pulled out some planters, my daughter and I planted different seeds in each one, we watered them, and then covered them with clear plastic (like a greenhouse). Pretty soon we had bunches and bunches of little herbs growing.

We put the planters in the shadows under the overhang of the eaves to keep it from getting the blast of full sunlight, or hard hits from heavy rains.

Now we have fresh basil, Italian parsley, and oregano growing. We also have some lavender and spearmint, just for fun, but not for cooking.

My daughter planted some pepper, cucumber, and radish seeds she got on a field trip to Home Depot, and we transplanted those to a better area in the more plant friendly back yard.

Let us get you planted in a new home so you too can become a Florida “native!” Hire St. Augustine Team Realty! Just email Kate Stevens, Broker Associate, or call (904) 377-2276.

 

Update On Our Native / Drought Resistant Plants Project

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook and me on Google+.

Moving Society Garlic with the kids.

Moving Society Garlic with the kids.

We moved some plants this weekend.

When we originally started this we drew out a planting plan on graph paper on where things would go.

We put the Florida native wildflowers in the front (because they usually stay close to the ground), and put the society garlic behind them, because the garlic usually grows taller.

Well, the wildflowers took off! Some of them got as high as two feet, blocking the garlic from view. So we moved the garlic to the front.

Here’s what we did:

I transplanted a single garlic in the center, and then my daughter measured 8 inches out from that plant on each side to mark where we would put the next one. We did this until we ran out of plants.

One of the things we discovered when we were transplanting the garlic was how weed roots and centipede grass roots would try and intertwine with the garlic. The centipede grows pretty worthless above ground but it has no problem messing with the garlic, which p*ssed me off.

So we covered the ground around the garlic with newspaper, and wetted it, to keep the weeds and centipede grass out.

Then we pulled the radio flyer to the back yard and raked a few wagon loads of pine straw to cover the newspaper. I had my son help spread the pine straw.

Voila! We were done.

Right now we have a backlog of 10 plants that need to go in, so I think we’re going to round up some type of native butterfly attractor, and maybe some crotons to add some color.

We will keep you posted!

Hire St. Augustine Team Realty when you are looking for your commute to the beach in St. Augustine! Email us at ReQuestion@StAugTeam.com or call Broker Associate (Sales) Kate Stevens at (904) 377-2276.

An Update on Our Native Plants Project

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
How to grow a Florida wildflower garden!

How to grow a Florida wildflower garden!

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook and Google+.

In our last update back in May, only the Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) was blooming from our fall wildflower planting.

What a difference a few months makes!

In mid to late summer the bright yellow blooms of Yellow Coneflower and Black Eye Susan started popping up…the Black Eyes still remain vibrant (the coneflowers only lasted through August).

Right now many of the Gaillardia are still blooming though many of them are also going to seed.

In the “dead area” from our second wildflower planting only a single Black Eye Susan bloomed.  So we tarped the area over again in August (except for the one flower), and recently reseeded it.  We made a cool graphic of our wildflower seedings which we included with this post.

The wildflowers, from a Florida native beach wildflower mix, surprised us in that they grew so tall.  We expected them to stay low and hug the ground like they do in the dunes.  I’m not sure why they grew so tall here.

We thought that the wildflowers would be lower than the Society Garlic, which is planted behind them.  But since they are so tall I think in the spring we’ll move the garlic to the front of the wildflower bed, and maybe mulch the garlic with oak leaves to keep the weeds out (such as they are in the Valley).

Everything we planted this year and last has survived with the exception of one Fountain Grass plant.  In the spring we thought one of the garlic plants had died but it’s still there, hanging on and trying to get bigger.

The Fountain Grass we planted in early summer really benefitted from the bountiful rains we had this summer.  Where last year’s crop had trouble getting established even with frequent watering, this year’s plants really seemed to thrive and even get bigger.

We’ll keep you updated as things progress!

Hire St. Augustine Team Realty when you want some help growing into a new home in St. Augustine!  Email ReQuestion@StAugTeam.com or call Broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.

Native and Drought Resistant Plants for St. Augustine: Wildflower Plantings in November

Monday, November 14th, 2011

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

My daughter seeding Florida native wildflowers.

My daughter seeding Florida native wildflowers.

This month we’re finally seeding wildflowers for our Valley of Life Project.

A recap: I’ve nicknamed my front yard “The Valley of Death” because nothing will grow there, except sand and the occasional weed.  So I decided to replant it using Florida native and drought resistant plants that are perfect for the soil and climate (read about our earlier plantings this season).

Last month we tarped off an area of the Valley for planting Florida native wildflowers.  The idea is to kill anything underneath the tarp using the heat of the sun, which is ironic as nothing grows in the Valley anyway.

In the meantime we ordered a 1.5 oz seed packet from FloridaWildflowers.com.  I ordered the beach wildflower mix which includes Beach Sunflower, Blanket Flower, Soft Coneflower, Standing Cypress, and Powder Puff Mimosa.  I chose the beach mix because I really like Blanket Flower and Soft Coneflower.

The real trick (before ordering the seeds) was trying to figure out how much/many seeds we needed.  After doing some research online I somehow came up with the figure of 7 pounds of seeds per acre.  The tarped test area that we were going to plant the wildflower seeds on was only 120 square feet (.22 percent of an acre).  So the smallest seed pack sold (1.5 ounces) would actually work out to something like 4 times as much seed as we needed.

When I pulled off the tarp this weekend the scraggly grass that was there when I covered it was dead (okay, I exaggerate when I say nothing grows…the grass is patchy and gets burned out easily in the hot sun), but some of the scraggly weeds still managed to maintain some green.  The weeds don’t grow well but they won’t die either!  Oh, well.

I moved the tarp to an adjacent area that we’ll seed next month.

My daughter and I used a rake to scrape and till the area, but not too much.

Then we took out the wildflower seeds in pinch-fuls and let the wind broadcast them onto the tilled area.  It’s hard to believe that so few seeds are needed.

Stomping down the wildflower seeds.

Fun, fun, fun! Stomping down the wildflower seeds.

Then the fun part (for my daughter) was stomping over the area to make sure the seeds made contact with the soil, so they can germinate.

Ideally we should have tarped the area in August and planted the seeds in October, per the reccomendations for Northeast Florida.  But since we live so close to the actual coast where it’s warmer, as opposed to being well inland, I’m hoping we’ll get by with a later planting season more suited to Central Florida.

If things go as planted the seeds should sprout sometime in the spring or early summer.

Contact St. Augustine Team or just call (904) 386-8327 if you want to find your Florida native home today!

Native Plants and Drought Resistant Plants for St. Augustine’s Valley of Death, Part III

Friday, October 21st, 2011

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

The future wildflower area tarped over.

The future wildflower area tarped over.

This month we’re preparing the ground in the Valley for some Florida native wildflower plantings.

We did it by spreading out a black tarp (actually black trash bags cut up) over the area where we want the wildflowers to grow.  We did this so the heat from the sun will kill what’s underneath.

What is ironic is that we actually have to kill something in the Valley of Death, where I’ve said nothing will grow anyway.  It’s not neccesarily that things won’t grow, but that they grow oddly, weeds and the occasional sprout of grass together, seperated by sand patches.

So we’re trying to take it down to the sand so we can seed Florida native wildflowers like Blanket Flower and Black Eyed Susan.

We tarped out only half the area designated on our plat for wildflowers.  Like the society garlic and tender fountain grass we’ve already planted, we want to see how it goes in small amounts first.

I should have actually done the tarping in August when the heat is much higher, and seeded this month.  But we hadn’t planted the society garlic yet, which forms the border with the wildflowers.  So here we are and we’ll see how it goes.

I’ll keep you updated as we move along!

For a group of Realtors that will keep you in green grass and wildflowers, contact St. Augustine Team or just give us a call at (904) 386-8327!

Native Plants and Drought Resistant Plants for St. Augustine’s “Valley of Death”

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

“Look around you, this is the Valley of Death.” -The Humongus to Mad Max, The Road Warrior

The Valley of Death is not so far away as the apocalyptic wasteland of the 1981 classic The Road Warrior.   In fact, it’s my front yard, near Wildwood Drive in what I like to call the Unfashionable South End of St. Augustine.

Fountain Grass wondering what it did to deserve this.

Fountain Grass wondering what it did to deserve this.

Beyond sand, the only thing my front yard will tolerate growing is the occasional and daring blade of bahia grass.  The centipede grass that we thought would weather the full sun and sand better than anyother grass only grows until the unyielding sun burns it into a brown crisp.  A magnolia…a Southern magnolia…that we planted six years ago still survives, but it’s shrunk.  It only stays alive from the water I use to wash my bike every weekend.

With the extended drought this year it’s been a particularly hard for the green things trying to eek out an existence in the Valley. Even the weeds won’t grow.

I don’t have an irrigation system, and don’t want one.  So what to do?

The solution of course is drought resistant plants and Florida Native plants whenever possible.

I started by checking out every Florida landscaping book and Florida native plant book from the library to get ideas.  From those books we got a good idea of what plants could survive the full sun and poor soil of the Valley of Death.

Then my wife and I “mapped” our yard by walking it and planting stakes in the approximate areas where were wanted to plant.  And then we figured out what we could plant during the hot month of August.

From there it was to Southern Horticulture on the Island where we talked to our friend Lauri to see what plants they had in stock.  We came up with something called Tender Fountain Grass (pennisetua setaceum) “Rubrum,” which tolerates heat, poor soil and doesn’t reseed itself all over the place. 

We had some good luck on the way.  The St. Johns County Ag Center was hosting a monthly talk on native plants at the same time.  Hosted by Elkton’s Renee Stambaugh of Native Plant Consulting, it was a quick introduction into some six or seven native varieties that we could plant right away.   

One of the master gardners speaking at the native plant talk also instructed us how to get the ground prepared now for planting Florida native wildflowers in October.  And even better, a source where you could buy Florida wildflower seeds in bulk: the aptly named FloridaWildflowers.com.

To start our plantigs we only put in three smallish containers of Fountain Grass.  As time goes on and we add plants season by season we’ll update you how it’s going in the Valley!

Planting Trees with Every Sale

Back in the day I started making a charity donation and tree planting donation with every sale.  The tree planting donation started when (during the go-go days of the real estate boom) a developer axed a gigantic old oak that my friends and I used to lunch under to build a parking lot.  The parking lot is pretty empty these days but the tree is still gone. 

I started the donation as an actual tree given to the buyer or seller (who’s house I just sold).  But nobody ever would get back to me on what plant or tree they wanted, so I just ended up donating to either American Forests or the American Chestnut Society, which used the monies to plant trees…but not necessarily in Florida.

So with this Valley of Death project I just started I am going to turn my donation focus there, for two reasons.  One, it will keep the donation local.  Two, it will also make the donation more relevant, in that we can learn together here about planting in the tough soils of St. Augustine. 

See our charity and tree donations so far.

For a team of Realtors that strives to be knowledgable about local plants as well as local real estate, contact St. Augustine Team Realty or call (904) 386-8327!