Design Your Florida Garden for Success

January 7, 2011 by Rick


Head over to Florida-Friendly Landscaping before you start your planning process. Use the web to gather images and data and to decide what appeals to you and what is easy to maintain. Determine what will thrive and grow into a planned mature landscape that is in scale with your home.



The University of Florida’s Extension Service and their science based research are the source of the 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping. It is helpful to us them and their trusted information and resources.



The Water Management Districts of Florida provide most of the information you need to plan and implement a successful design. Micro Irrigation is something to consider and it will ensure success when properly installed, operated and maintained. Fortunately that is simple and straightforward.



Search the web for more videos, blogs, Facebook pages for ideas and design help like this.

Learn the principles garden design and combine them with the 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping

Try to get a big picture and then select plants and systems that are Florida Friendly.

Garden Coaches can also be a huge help and inspiration. They can save you many more dollars than you will spend on the trial and error method. You can also go to your Garden Center and get inspiration and prices so you have an idea of what is in season and popular for gardens now.

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The Costa Rica Connection & the Plant Breeding Process

December 13, 2010 by Rick

Costa Rica is famous for Arabica Coffee and the coffee plants are easy to spot in most areas outside the capital city of San Jose. Tourism tops their economic resource base and they are in an economic crisis with the world wide recession, the rise of their currency and decline of international travel. The ornamental plant and seed business is thriving and employs over 10000 people there. We visited 6 farms we do business with through plant brokers. Videos and images here feature Pan American Seed Company and Ball Floraplant which are part of Ball Seed Company based in Chicago. Our tour was hosted by Express Seed Company and this is the group photo.




Filmed at Linda Vista, Cartago Costa Rica, home of Ball Seed Companies Pan American Seed Company. Mario Guillen explains the plant breeding process and how they develop inbred lines so they can make F1 hybrid seeds that produce identical seedlings with outstanding characteristics. This has been a 20 year process to develop the Devine Impatiens series.

Plant Breeding Process at PanAmerican Seed Company Linda Vista Sa in Costa Rica
Selecting desirable plants for F1 hybrid breeding in New Guinea Impatiens
Pollination, harvesting and evaluating potential F1 Hybrid Devine New Guinea Impatiens
Several years from now there may be a yellow sun tolerant New Guinea Impatiens available from seed.


Nearby in Cartago is Ball Floraplant where they produce cutting varieties of plants that are not currently possible to reproduce by developing F1 hybrids like the Black Velvet Petunia and Voltage Yellow Osteospermum. These are the Black Velvet stock plants where they harvest cuttings for the world market.



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Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Plant Selection Guide

December 11, 2010 by Rick

Hot off the press, the new Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Plant Selection Guide.

You will be very impressed with this downloadable publication that shows you in great detail how to design and implement a Florida Friendly Landscape. The experts at the University of Florida Extension Service have combined their talents and years of experience. The links are missing to the numbered EDIS publications for the critical proper planting of trees, turf and landscape plants so you will have to do some further searching on the Home Lawn and Landscape Section of the extensive EDIS Site to complete the implementation of your plan.

I consider this knowledge essential to professionals you may hire and a valuable resource for you to check the credibility of a contractor’s knowledge. Too often folks tend to trust a ‘yardman’ to select and properly install the Right Plant in the Right Place only to later find that the selection was inappropriate.

Bookmark these references and turn your garden into a functional Florida Friendly Landscape. Here are the 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping.

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Costa Rica Bound

December 3, 2010 by Rick

Last year I visited Guatemala and under a volcano at the Ecke Poinsettia cutting and stock plant farm in Antigua.


The gray plume above the white clouds is the Pacaya Volcano.


At Goldsmith Seed Production facility in Jalapa Guatemala
This is Glodsmiths Trial garden in Gilroy where they test and package their seeds from Guatemala


This year I am embarking on a trip with 60 nursery folks from around the US to tour state of the art production facilities where cuttings and seeds are produced for the amazing new plants we grow and market at these Florida Home Depot Garden Centers. I will take pictures and some video to share this amazing country and some of the techniques used by these growers.

History of Costa Rica

Christopher Columbus landed at Costa Rica 1502, on his fourth trip to the Americas. His sailing ships anchored off the coast of Cariari Island, close to what today is known as the Port Limon, on the Caribbean coast. Impressed by the exuberant vegetation and abundance of gold jewelry and adornments worn by native inhabitants, Columbus called this land Costa Rica (Coast of Plenty).

The fact that more than one million tourists visit Costa Rica each year does hot happen by chance. The country, located in Central America, is an isthmus where life seems to have created its roots. Covering only 0.03% of the earths surface, Costa Rica has approximately 6% of the world’s biodiversity; 130 species of fresh water fish, 160 species of amphibians, 208 species of mammals, 220 species of reptiles, 850 species of birds, 1,000 species of butterflies, 1,200 varieties of orchids, 9,000 species of plants and 34,000 species of insects. In addition, Costa Rica is characterized by impressive scenic beauty, a consolidated system of protected areas, social and political stability, high education levels and efficient infrastructure and services. All of this offered in an area of only 51 thousand square kilometers.

Rugged highlands are found throughout most of the country, they range from approximately 1,000 to 2,000 meters (3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level). The Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera Central, and Cordillera de Talamanca are the principal mountain ranges extending the length of the country. There are several active volcanoes (Volcán Arenal, Volcán Irazú, Volcán Rincón de la Vieja and Volcán Turrialba) and the country's highest mountain (Cerro Chirripó), which reaches a height of 3,819-m/12,530 ft. The country has a relatively long coastline in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers and streams.

Costa Rica's year round climate is pleasant with naturally occurring breezes cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands and the mountains are warm by day and brisk at night giving an "eternal spring" feeling. The average annual temperatures range from 31.7°C (89°F) on the coast to 16.7°C (62°F) inland. The rainy, or “green”, season lasts from May to December with noticeably wetter days

Customs and Entry Requirements

Citizens holding a valid passport from the US are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa.

No customs duties are charged on personal luggage, which includes an array of items for personal and professional use, as long as they do not appear in quantities that suggest commercial intent. Costa Rican law requires that baggage be examined upon entry and that travelers submit customs declarations listing all articles acquired abroad, including fruit, vegetables, meat, meat products, biological products such as vaccinations, serums, etc.

Banking and Money

When exchanging your money, you can either utilize the services at many of the local banks, or use the services of the hotel. Most hotels will exchange your money providing that you are staying at their hotel. ATM’s (Automatic Teller Machines) are available at the airport and also in the city, but they are not as readily available in smaller towns and villages.

At the present time, the current exchange rate is 522.44 colones per 1 U.S. dollar. The colones come in bills with denominations of: 10,000, 5,000 (called toucans), 2,000, 1,000, 500, 100, and 50 colones. The coins come in denominations of 100, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 colones. Recently, the central bank has printed gold coins in all the same denominations mentioned above, however, several of them are smaller than those presently in circulation, and therefore, do not work in any of the public machines, i.e. telephones, etc.

Credit cards are accepted at most major hotels and restaurants and shops that cater to the tourist trade, but are less accepted in smaller villages.

Departing Costa Rica

Check-in lines at San Jose’s international airport can be very long. It is strongly advisable to arrive at the airport 2 ½ hours before your scheduled departure.

In order to leave Costa Rica, you must pay a $17 departure tax. This tax may be paid in US dollars or colones equivalent, no credit cards are accepted. While people will offer to sell you departure tax stamps at the curbside, the airport recommends that you buy directly from the airport and not these vendors. Once inside the terminal building you will see the booths selling departure tax stamps. You first will need to show your flight ticket and passport to prove that you have a flight. The departure stamps come attached to a form, which you should fill out before you reach the ticket counter.

Regarding our farm visits, here are a few things to keep in mind;

· Depending on the season, rain is most likely during your visit, so it is advised to bring lightweight rain jacket. The temperatures are for the most part mild, but humidity can be high during the day. Evenings can be cool, so a lightweight jacket is recommended.

· For the most part we will be walking through the farm, so comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

· While visiting the farms, business casual is recommended; jeans are acceptable. The Latin culture generally frowns upon shorts at the workplace and workers at these locations are not allowed to wear them. We ask that you respect this rule and not wear shorts during your visit.

· Cameras are allowed anywhere on most farms except Seed Processing. If you have any questions on whether you can take a picture just ask your tour guide.

Farm visits

Innovaplant Kientzler

Innovaplant was established in 1994, as a representation of the Kientzler GmbH & Co KG from Germany, Kienztler is a Company that since 1904 has dedicated, mainly, to produce and export ornamental unrooted cuttings around the world.

Actually, Kientzler is leader in research, development and improvement of vegetative propagated ornamental plants.

Its greatest growth was experienced during the last 30 years, in the area of genetic improvement of ornamental plants.

This corporation is formed by four main companies; who function as a separate one, but everyone with their respective tasks and customized functions.


The primary crops are:

1. Petunia

2. New Guinea Impatiens

3. Dentranthema

4. Calibrachoa

5. Osteospermum

6. Nemesia

7. Hedera helix

8. Verbena Superbena

9. Solenostemon

10. Euphorbia Hybride

In February 2005, the Else Kientzler Botanical Garden opened to the public, the main objective of it is to preserve Costa Rica's threatened or endangered species and to show tropical species from around the world.The botanical garden offers a collection of about 2000 tropical species, distributed and labeled in 7 acres of trails and gardens where visitors can spread out, learning about plants through guided tours


Company name: Fidesplants S.A., founded in 1987

Location: elevation 3420ft.

City: Alajuela, Costa Rica, 10 minutes from SJO international airport.


Máximum day temperature: 90F Minimum day temperature: 69F

Maximum night temperature: 68F Minimum night temperature: 59F

Total week radiation 7271 J/cm2 (14.5 Mol / ft2)

Natural day length 12 hours, +/- 1 hour

Dry season December-April


60 permanent going up to 125 employees in peak season


Greenhouses: 7.5 hectares (18.9 acres) on 17 hectares (42 acres) of land

Automatic shade systems, raised benches, cyclic light, cold stores and steam boiler.


Dahlia/ Nemesia/Impatiens/Osteospermum/Petunia/Calibrachoa/ Kalanchoe and others


Floramo S.A. was founded in 1994 by Wouter Groot and Nicole Custers.

Both are agricultural engineers and graduated at the Agricultural University Wageningen in The Netherlands. The Floramo Company currently covers

9.000 M2 and a growing number of high quality cuttings of the Bartels Stek range is produced at this production location. Products like Aster, Hypericum, Solidago, Phlox, Veronica and Salvia are year round available.

Bartels Stek Costa Rica was founded in 2002 and since the start managed by Wouter and Nicole. Substantial amounts of the produced cuttings are sent directly from Costa Rica to customers in North and South America. Due to the logistic improvements the cost on freight decreased and is delivering of fresh cuttings year round guaranteed. The numbers of cuttings that are shipped through Bartels Stek Costa Rica are still growing!


Florexpo has been in the horticulture market for over 25 years. The farm is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica in the province of Cartago and the county of Paraíso, approximately 45 minutes from the International Airport.

The elevation is 4,450 feet above sea level. The day length is very constant year round (11:30 hours to 12:30 hours). Natural short day length and high light levels allow uniform product to be shipped year round. Temperature average goes from 65° F - 75° F. All the water for irrigation comes from two deep wells of 170 meters in depth.

It is a 61 hectares property with 17 hectares of Triple A greenhouses; over 30 miles of elevated benches on cement floors. The main production in this farm is for the unrooted cuttings program. The unrooted cuttings program consists of around 800 varieties and more than 1200 sub-varieties.

Production is under permanent short days, due to the latitude of the farm. This allows for production of long day plants in a non-blooming environment. All vents and doors of the greenhouses are fully screened against insects.

Floors have concrete paths and compacted road base or concrete areas under the benches. This prevents weed growth and puddles of water. Recent additions to greenhouse space with optimum clean production protocols and an eye for economies of scale balanced with unique mother stock needs.

Florexpo was established by Mr. Fernando Altman Borbon, as a 1.5 hectares flower farm, mainly Gysophila and Chrysanthemums, to be exported to the U.S. In a short period of time the business grew significantly.

In 1996, a new business opportunity emerges, unrooted cuttings. Unrooted Cuttings (URC) business emerges from the experience acquired in the rooting station for the fresh flowers business. Today, Florexpo is a large perennial cuttings producer. It has a wide selection of annuals from some prestigious breeders, and it offers an aggressive flexibility to new product channels – grasses, woodies, organic herbs, succulents and a program for groundcover called Costa Rica Cuttings. It has expanded its market from Costa Rica to the United States, Europe and Canada

PanAmerican Seed’s Linda Vista Production Facility

Claude Hope arrived in Costa Rica in 1943 with the purpose of doing research on quinine (a plant used to treat malaria). In spite of the fact that his experiments with quinine did not have major success, they gave him the opportunity to glimpse the great possibilities that the soil and climate of Costa Rica offered for seed production. In 1945 Claude Hope returned to Costa Rica to start seed production. In 1953, in Dulce Nombre de Jesus, in the mountains of Cartago, Linda Vista S.A. was formed.

Today, Linda Vista is actually made up of three farms. All situated at various altitudes below the Irazu volcano on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica. Farm #1 is the main production facility where Super Elfin impatiens, Wave, Dreams and Carpet petunias are produced. Farm #1 also houses all aspects of seed cleaning, milling, testing and shipping to our West Chicago distribution center. It is located at about 5,000 feet above see level. During peak production Linda Vista can employee 1,500 people.

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Spreading Lantana, Durable Butterfly Garden Groundcover

November 24, 2010 by Rick

Spreading Lantana is available in Purple or Pure White at your Florida Home Depot Garden Centers year round. Find out about it and more at







Image Title

Spreading Lantana - Lantana montevidensis blooms best Fall through Spring and is a more prostrate grower than the New Gold and mounding types. This South African species also comes in white and both are hardier to frost and freeze than other Lantanas. Few pests bother it once it is established in a well-drained site. It tolerates salt air and poor sandy soils but, for continuous blooming, fertilize and water it more frequently or just wait for fall when it puts on a spectacular display.

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Categories: Butterfly Garden | 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Cold Hardy Perennial | Butterfly Garden | Cool Season Gardening | Cold Hardy Perennial | Cool Season Gardening
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A Florida Garden Treasure - Casa Phippsberger

November 20, 2010 by Rick


Casa Phippsberger is a private Palm Beach garden and part of the legacy of the Phipps family that once owned much of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach including 25 miles of South Florida ocean front property in the early 1900’s.

Horticulturist Karl Gercens shares many images from around the world on Flickr and these images are a real treat and give us a look inside a tropical paradise garden. Bullis Bromeliads offerings will give you a sense of what you might use to create a bit of Phippsberger in your own landscape.



Robert Bornstein writes for the Examiner in Miami and has a series on Secret Gardens in Miami that makes you wish you could go on a garden tour with him some day.

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Categories: Design | Container Gardening | Florida Friendly Landscape | Plant Production
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Filoli Gardens and Mansion near San Francisco

November 12, 2010 by Rick

Beautiful photography from Jill Clardy you should check out.

Enjoy this slideshow from Jill and you will see why this is a national treasure.

I enjoyed Jill’s San Francisco Bay Area Aerial Tour to give some perspective to what was voted the top tourist destination in the world.

Set this to full screen, turn on some music and sit back and enjoy these excellent images of Filoli.


I hope this inspires you to enjoy the beautiful weather and get out into your own garden.

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Categories: Butterfly Garden | Container Gardening
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Fragrance and Beauty for Your Florida Garden

November 5, 2010 by Rick

Burgmansias fill the garden with delicious scents in the evening. They are very undemanding plants and fill the space given in a home garden. With their big leaves able to capture light energy they are capable in growing in partially shaded settings. Burgmansias send their roots deep and are quite capable of surviving in our sandy soils on rainfall alone once they are established making them very Florida Friendly. Mulch them heavily once or twice a year and you can fertilize them only if you want them to grow faster or larger. Even after the extreme winter of 2009-2010 all the Burgmansias sprouted back from the roots and were in bloom by summer.

Check out Fred’s Blog for some of his new hybrid Burgs that may amaze you.


Another hybridizer, Alice Harris has some beautiful success stories to share too. Check out the availability of many Harris and Karchesky hybrids on their site.

Here are some Google images to show you the diversity of the new hybrids becoming available.


Check out some images and what Ewa is posting from Europe on Burgs.

If you really get into Burgmansia breeding and history there is a Registry of Hybrids to show who has done what. Enjoy and share gardening with friends.

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Categories: Florida Friendly Landscape | Cold Hardy Perennial
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Leu Gardens, Always a Spectacle

October 29, 2010 by Rick

Harry P. Leu Gardens is owned by and located near the Downtown area of Orlando. This Florida treasure is worth supporting and maintaining. Quite a few Floridians have either been married at Leu Gardens or attended weddings there is this serene and beautiful setting. Check their schedule as they are booked up to a year in advance for weekend weddings.


Google images show lots of wedding activity along with beautiful vistas and flowers.


See hundreds of amazing Images of Leu Gardens on flickr.


Take a camera and make some design notes. Most of the plants are labeled. They have home, butterfly garden and garden and vegetable demonstration gardens set and have much information to share and take with you. Look for new plants I recently left for the garden, Salvia Wendy’s Wish, an amazing hummingbird magnet that blooms year round with lipstick colored flowers.

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Categories: Leu Gardens | Leu Gardens | Butterfly Garden | Butterfly Garden | Florida Friendly Landscape | Florida Friendly Landscape | Design | Design
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Florida Friendly Pumpkin Patch

October 20, 2010 by Rick

Gardeners are getting so clever with pumpkins these days. In Florida it is tough to grow pumpkins of any size with our summer heat and rain. A clever idea I have seen is to grow Ornamental Sweet Potatoes as a permanent easy to care for ground cover and place your pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks as if the vines had actually produced your crop. These imitation pumpkin vines contrast nicely with pumpkins or gourds and easily fool the untrained eye. For even more contrast you can add a colorful border to contain and frame your pumpkin patch by edging it with SausEdge.

Let your imagination run and look at some of these Links:


Pumpkin 1                Pumpkin 2                      Pumpkin 3                              Pumpkin 4


Another idea is to grow your Ornamental Sweet Potatoes in large containers as SPILLERS and arrange them on your front porch or patio with pumpkins and other colorful containers of Crotons as FILLERS and ornamental grass as THRILLERS. Try orange or black coleus for additional seasonal color that last longer than mums.

 Ornamental Sweet Potato Persian Shaield Combo

Add some Muhly Grass to your display and later plant if in a sunny spot in the garden. I also have a wonderful friend and great gardener, Janis, whose nickname is Pumpkin and here is her Blog.

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Categories: Cool Season Gardening | Florida Friendly Landscape | Design | Thriller-Filler-Spiller Design Concept | SausEdge get the edge on your beds..
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