By: Jay Keeter

     Just upon hearing the utterance of the word "bamboo," many gardeners react with fear and loathing.  Some folks will relay the familiar story of fighting the invasive species for years, with no success in controlling the unwanted growth.  The wilder growing varieties of bamboo show no respect for property lines, often appearing in the neighbor’s yard.  Many well meaning gardeners have caused an abundance of problems, throughout many well-manicured neighborhoods, by planting just a small sprout of running bamboo.  However, there are safer species of bamboo- types that will never become a garden menace- which develop a tight clumping growth habit.  Luckily for gardeners in the Coastal South, several of these bamboo varieties are hardy in our area.

     Traditional in Japanese-styled gardens, clumping bamboo may be planted in mass to frame Oriental garden elements, such as a vertical pagoda or water feature.  Often an acceptable form of bamboo can be used to balance low lying stones.  When many bamboo plants are trimmed at different heights, the uneven shape may echo the form of distant mountains within the garden space.  Even the undulating motion of bamboo bowing to the wind suggests movement in the garden, perhaps paralleled only by the actual movement of water.

    Clumping bamboo is not limited to the Japanese garden.  Often used as a vegetative privacy fence, these plants have earned the common name of hedge bamboo.  When larger growing varieties of clumping bamboo are used behind brightly blooming flowering shrubs, they provide a contrast, flattering the flowers.  This same style of planting may also provide an excellent backdrop to the interesting winter branches and trunks of plants such as Weeping Mulberry and the more compact growing types of Crape Myrtle.  When used as specimen plants, clumping bamboos can be combined with coarse textured plant material to create the appearance of a tropical mini-jungle.  To create this appearance, one should incorporate palms, banana trees, and hardy ginger lilies into the same landscape.

     There are actually only a few types of clumping bamboo that are considered garden worthy in the Lowlands of the Carolinas.  Be cautious of unnamed varieties and unscrupulous plant vendors who may mislead you.  Some of the appropriate clumping bamboo species for our area include several types of Bambusa multiplex (also sold as B.glaucescens), Bambusa oldhamii (often called clumping giant timber bamboo), and Bambusa ventricosa (an interesting form with swollen stems, earning the common name of Buddha Belly bamboo).  Within the group of Bambusa multiplex, growth habits vary.  Among the B.multiplex varieties are tall growing "Alphonse Karr" (up to 30+ ft), midsize "Argentea" (15-20 ft), and compact Chinese Goddess (6-8 ft).  The most dramatic in appearance may be B.oldhamii, eventually reaching 40 ft.  All these varieties are listed as hardy to around 15 degrees but will recover from short periods of even colder weather.  Coastal gardeners should feel privileged to be in the most ideal zone of the upper region to successfully grow these plants.

     So don’t be afraid the next time someone suggests bamboo for the garden.  However, don’t be fooled into buying any of the running types; even with the installation of edging and the persistent use of herbicides, you cannot accomplish significant control of those invasive garden monsters.  Even through clumping bamboo is less available and therefore a little more expensive, the extra money you spend now will save you much stress over the years, as your beautiful clumping bamboo gracefully adorns your landscape.

Limited supplies of these clumping bamboos are available at Tropical Nursery, located at 801 25th Ave South in North Myrtle Beach.  For more information, call 843-272-6043. 

    By Jay Keeter
   America is a mixture of people who express themselves in different ways.  This is particularly obvious when you consider gardeners. I am usually able to place a person into one of 3 gardening categories within just the first few minutes of conversation with them. The first group thinks of gardening as a necessary evil and expense, deriving no joy from the garden and meeting only minimal landscape requirements. You know the type- the ones who would have a yard full of only concrete if that were allowed. The second group sees gardening only from the functional viewpoint. These may be foresters managing tree farms or farmers growing other commercial crops. The final group of gardeners will acknowledge the effect of the landscape as a means to provide relief from the ordinary conditions of life. To these folks, the aesthetics of the landscape are the primary consideration. People in the third category have an attitude that should be applauded, and envied by those of you not among that group. The late 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted said it best: "The landscape should be able to refresh and delight the eye, the mind, and the spirit" (Frederick Law Olmsted, Designing the American Landscape).
   What makes this attitude as appropriate today as it was 100 years ago? The answer appears right in front of us each day. The stress and strain of life are sources of tension and fatigue.  Olmsted, and others since him, developed a belief that natural scenery could soothe those negative feelings. This effect has probably happened to all of us at one time or another. It may appear first as an unconscious process, charming us gradually, and eventually resulting in an admiration of the landscaped scenery. I have heard the analogy of pleasure we receive from listening to our favorite music as being similar to the pleasurable recreation that we experience when viewing a favorite garden.
   Several processes may happen in our minds that we are not at first aware of.  As stated above, we get a sense of pleasure from both   working in or simply viewing an enjoyable landscape. If the object of admiration is of your own creation, then you feel a great sense of achievement. Often overlooked is the benefit derived from caring for something other than one’s self when caring for a garden. This last benefit is a particularly important aspect of horticulture therapy. Horticulture therapy is practiced in institutions such as schools, retirement homes, and even prisons, exposing participants to something greater than just themselves.
   Even among real plant geeks there will be considerable debate concerning what constitutes true beauty within the landscape, and what effect it has on one’s mindset. Many home gardeners and horticulturalists may be most impressed by what is new or rare on the plant market. By comparison, commercial landscape architects may use basic commodity plants in ways that express decorative displays of vegetation. These displays may range from the subtle to the extreme, yet still achieve the appearance of coherent scenery.
   At all levels, landscaped scenery seems to take hold of our minds in interesting ways. One may not realize the impression of hospitality conveyed to visitors by an open and easily traversed entrance to the home. We may often take for granted the revived sentiments of days past when smelling a flower that reminds us of our childhood. Do we ever fully appreciate the cheerfulness that bubbles up within us when we pass by a bed of wildflowers thriving among the confines of sidewalks and roadways?
   Without a doubt- our lives are enriched by the landscape around us. Regardless of landscape style, every gardener reaps his or her just rewards when viewing nature’s treasures within our environment. Don’t hesitate to improve the horticultural quality of your life during the upcoming fall season. Experience the benefits of gardening for yourself by taking advantage of the Low Country’s "second spring". During the next few months, our precipitation generally increases and heat stress decreases. Luckily for Coastal residents, fall is the best time for planting many trees, shrubs, and perennials. The garden work you do now will provide positive psychological effects  to you and your neighbors for many years to come.
   To purchase plants or schedule a landscape consultation, contact Jay or Connie at Tropical Nursery in North Myrtle Beach. Visit for more information.


By: Jay Keeter

   Nature should be fun, and nothing entertains us as much as our flittering friends.  There should be a genuine infusion of discovery & joy as we observe butterflies.  The more knowledge we are able to acquire about any animal species, the better we are able to appreciate the relationship between that species & the environment.
   Butterfly eggs are tiny and barely visible.  However, when in a more advanced life stage as caterpillars, their presence is obvious.  They leave a path of undigested food droppings around the heavily chewed leaves of their favorite plants.  Some species of butterfly larvae will feast on a wide range of vegetation, while others feed only on specific food sources.  Each stage of their life cycle, referred to as instars, may produce a drastic change in appearance.  One of these instars, the cocoonal stage, will usually last a few weeks.  As the butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it arrives in an environment that both welcomes and threatens its life.  At first, the wings are limp, tightly curled, and easily damaged!  With great determination, the butterfly pumps fluids from its abdomen, up into the wings, unfurling and stretching them.  Eventually the butterfly wings begin to dry and harden.  Upon complete opening of the wings, we have a viable butterfly ready to seek nectar and begin searching for another to breed with.
   An interesting difference between butterflies and moths lie in their method of attracting a partner for reproduction.  Butterflies court visually, looking for an attractive mate.  Female moths attract mates through powerful sexual odors that the males detect with their large, bushy antennas.  For both butterflies and moths to complete a fully successful life, they must have access to fresh food (leaves as caterpillars, nectar as winged butterflies), a proper place to pupate (developing cocoons on sticks or branches), and adequate water.
   Understanding these requirements paves the way for hobbyists and gardeners to attract butterflies.  Many perennial plants, which will come back up in the garden for years, produce excellent nectar-bearing flowers.  Along coastal South Carolina, these plants include the Bush Petunia (Ruellia brittaniana), all varieties or Lantana, and several types of Salvia.  The purple, spike-like blooms of the Salvia commonly referred to as Mexican Bush Sage appear in late summer through fall, and attract more butterflies than the better known Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).  Salvia greggi, primarily seen in shades of pink or red specifically bloom over a prolonged period from spring until early winter, and are extremely attractive to many types of butterflies.  Lantana, which thrives on neglect once established, may be the easiest of these plants to grow and provides constant color from early summer until early frost.  In our garden, the premier butterfly attractant is the purple flowering, Bush Petunia.  Install the Bush Petunia in a garden spot where it will have room to wander.  Not only is it an all summer/fall bloomer that attracts butterflies, but it is also a little invasive.  If you plant it now, within two years you will have plenty to share with neighbors.
   The larval, or caterpillar stage, is a little annoying to gardeners.  It is at this time you will see many chewed leaves on Milkweed, Angel Trumpet, and Passion Vine.  Refrain from spraying insecticides on these plants!  By being patient you can simply out wait the critters in this instar, and plant foliage will quickly re-emerge.  If you spray to kill the caterpillars, you will have less butterflies later.
   Finally, provide a shallow container of water in the area.  Water is essential to prevent dehydration.  Often a damp sponge in a shallow bowl or bird bath is a sufficient site for "puddling."  In this process, butterflies will flitter above the water, pulling moisture up upon their bodies.   Practice good mosquito control, by changing water frequently.
   By meeting the requirements of butterflies, a gardener can receive the benefit of the beauty of both plants and animals.  Create a fascinating world just outside your own back door by planting a beautiful butterfly garden.  Do it now if you haven’t already, as September is one of our best months along the coast for viewing these natural beauties.  
   All of these varieties are available at Tropical Nursery at 801 25th Ave South in North Myrtle Beach.  If you need directions, check our website at or call 843-272-6043.

By: Jay Keeter

   Perhaps the spectacular, tender perennial we can grow along the Southeast's coastal region is the magnificent Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia).  Enormous blooms, often nearly 1 ft. long, hang down from plants that may reach 6-8 ft. tall during a single growing season.  These pendulous flowers release a sweet fragrance which is only discernable at night.  When in bloom, this is one awe-inspiring plant which will surely grab your attention.  The Angel Trumpet has long been prized for its huge flowers in Southern gardens, and is frequently referred to as one of the most desirable Southern heritage plants a gardener may possess.

   Cold hardiness seems to vary both by species and intensity of the winter.  However, once well established, these herbaceous plants will provide years of plentiful blooms when well mulched during the cold season.  Good drainage, usually not a problem in sandy soils, prevents the dormant plant from rotting during the winter.  If planted in heavier soils, they perform best in slightly raised beds.  To improve tolerance to cold, Angel Trumpet may be planted with some protection from North winds.  This can be achieved by installing the plant in an area facing South or Southeast, with a fence, building, or vegetative hedge providing a buffer from those cold North winds.  If purchased in the fall, some gardeners will install the plant in the ground in its pot, and simply lift it out (pot and all) and over-winter it inside during the first year.

   Angel Trumpets belong to the Nightshade family (Brugmansia, Datura, & Jimsonweed are all related) and are therefore poisonous to humans.  Perhaps that is why the plant is also deer resistant, but unexplainably delicious to butterfly larvae.  Gardeners, and admirers, of Angel Trumpets should enjoy the flowers, but never taste them.  All parts of the plant are poisonous.  Don't let that care you!  You probably have other toxic plants in your garden, including the tomato plant (leaves/stems only) which are commonly grown by gardeners everywhere.

   In areas where Angel Trumpets can be grown outside (in the ground, returning from year to year) heavy pruning is usually necessary prior to the emergence of new growth in the spring.  The application of a slow release fertilizer at that time encourage  rapid growth during the growing season.  If you live in the cooler half of South Carolina, we recommend overwintering inside.  Potted plants can be overwintered indoors with just a little light and very little water.  If you are short on space, 1 foot long cuttings of the trunk can be easily rooter and saved in a slightly moist media for the next season.  Several cutting may be taken of the trunk area and inserted into a single pot for storage that doesn't require much room.  After roots have developed, you will have plenty of plants for yourself or to share with neighbors. 

   Originating in South America, these plants are quite at home in the Coastal South.  Different varieties sport blooms of pink, gold, peach, white, and yellow during our long fall growing season.  Near the end of summer, a single well-established Angel Trumpet may produce more than 50 blooms.  Interestingly, some experts say the plants bloom best during full moons.  As the weather cools off a little, the lower temperatures of fall help the blooms last longer than during the hot nights of August and early September.  In our area, the first Angel Trumpet blooms have only recently begun to present themselves, so the best is yet to come.  Purchase plants now to enjoy an impressive display of flowers during the next two months.

   Questions or comments about Angel Trumpets are welcome at Tropical Nursery, where you may also purchase these plants.  Call 843-272-6043 or come by 801 25th Ave. South in North Myrtle Beach; you can also visit our booth at the Greek Festival this weekend in Myrtle Beach. 

By: Jay Keeter

   If you enjoy the outdoors and want to learn more about it, then you need to look no further than within a rotten log.  There you can discover both the obvious and subtle interdependencies between plants and animals with little effort on your part.  Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from this type of study is an appreciation for the fragility of the environment and the importance of undisturbed natural areas.  Whether you are a parent/grandparent, teacher, or just an observant naturalist, discovering the complexity within a rotten log is an easy & educational activity to enjoy with others, both young and old.  So grab a magnifying glass and a friend to examine a partially decomposed log together.

   One basic principle of ecology is that various life forms proceed from the death of other organisms.  Nowhere is that fact expressed more obviously than when examining an old, rotting log.  At one time the log may have been part of a vigorously growing tree, but in its waning years as a dead, rotting log, it will provide life for a great number of plants and animals.  The size of these plants and animals, which are ultimately dependent upon the decaying material, will vary from microscopic organisms to large mammals such as bears.

   Look for a specimen in the middle stages of decomposition, neither too green & fresh nor in a state of crumbling humus.  First examine the outside of the log for fungi, mosses, and lichen.  The various fungi may appear in many forms, such as stemmed mushrooms or clamshell-shaped extrusions in a multitude of colors.  Fungi lack chlorophyll, which is  the green chemical pigment used in photosynthesis to create food within plants.  Therefore, a fungus must rely on another plant or animal for its nutrition and ultimately for its survival.

   Lichens may also be obvious on the outer part of a decomposing log.  Lichens are unique in their composition, existing as a combination of two living things- fungi and algae.  The fungi and algae are so closely joined together that they function as (and are considered to be) a single organism.  The fungi (as described above) rely on the log as a source of water and nutrition, whereas the algal component, which is a very simply form of plant life, provides chlorophyll.  In turn, the chlorophyll of algae can photosynthesize the nutrients and water into food used by the lichens to survive.

   Moss, one of the oldest true green plants on Earth, is radically different from more rare, advanced flowering plants.  Moss should be thought of as being similar to algae, and what we observe and recognize as moss is actually a fuzzy green reproductive structure presenting itself above the algae-like stage of moss' life.  The green, observable sexual structure will produce spores (similar to seeds on flowering plants) which is the basis for the development of new mosses.  Mosses thrive on shaded moist rotting logs.

   Looking forward into the log, beneath the bark surface, you will frequently see the tunnel-shaped borings of engraver beetles.  Many species of beetles, as well as ants, spiders, pillbugs, centipedes and other insects depend upon rotting logs as their habitat or food source.  Using a magnifying glass to observe more closely, you may discover tiny, red flakes moving over the wood.  These are not true insects, but are arthropods (tiny spider-like creatures) that feed on existing eggs, deposited by many types of insects.

   Larger animals also depend on rotting logs, and the small invertebrates that inhabit them, for survival.  Various lizards are attracted as they hunt for small insects. Larger insects and grubs within logs may become a food source for animals as large as bears. Larger, hollow logs may become the home of   raccoons, opossums, foxes, and ground nesting birds.  Fallen logs may provide not only homes, but also escape routes for small mammals being pursued by larger predators.

   Take the time to wander through woodlands which have been left undisturbed and seek out rotting logs.  You will be rewarded with an abundance of opportunities to better understand the complex relationship of various elements of nature.  A fallen log may look unimportant to the casual observer, but to a nature lover, it can be a real treasure.  In its decline, the log will provide food and shelter for other life forms for many years.

.  For horticulture questions or comments, stop by Tropical Nursery at 801 25th Avenue South in North Myrtle Beach or call 843-272-6043.  For directions, visit

         Fall Flowers:
       The Fantastic
            By Jay Keeter

   Now is the time that gardeners have been waiting for- the arrival of fall. More than just another change of seasons, fall along the Carolina’s coastal region is more like a second spring. The long duration of milder temperatures and less heat stress combine with a general increase in rainfall is a sure recipe for gardening success. Another similarity between spring and fall is in regard to our increased enthusiasm for outdoor activities. Both the weather and our personal energy is on the upswing, and with it comes our second case of "spring fever" within the year.

   This renewed wave of gardening optimism goes beyond just weather and enthusiasm. There are many plants that just cannot wait until fall to express their beauty. Those who have been carefully planning for a continued succession of color, as well as the more serendipitous gardeners, will recognize the value of permanent plants with fall color. The intent of this article is to introduce both seasoned and novice gardeners to four great plant selections that present impressive flowers during this time of the year. I refer to these as "Fall’s Fantastic Four", and no garden is complete without them.

   The entire family of Camellias has been a favorite in Southern gardens for centuries. Within this family are many varieties of fall blooming Camellias. Perhaps the longest blooming, and most compact growing, is the cultivar ‘Shi Shi Gashira’. Although not a name that easily rolls off the tongue, ‘Shi Shi Gashira’  is a plant easily grown by most gardeners. Since this plant adapts well to either full sun or partial shade, every gardener should be able to find a place for it. Good drainage is important, so avoid those areas where water stands after rainfall. Once established, ‘Shi Shi Gashira’ will produce hundreds of flowers over a period of several months.

   The next member of "Fall’s Fantastic Four" provides coarse tropical foliage during the summer and exotic blooms during the fall. Hedychium gingers are a personal favorite of mine, and are becoming increasingly popular as availability increases. Once only found as collector’s plants in specialty catalogues, these perennial gingers have finally reached the broader market. Various cultivars demand either sun or shade, and all require adequate moisture during the summer months to grow well. All varieties are fragrant and make great cut flowers to bring inside or enjoy in the outdoor garden. Some types produce an inflorescence nearly one foot long, while others only half of that length. A few worthy cultivars include: ‘Pink V’- peachy/pink flowers extending upon long inflorescences; ‘White Butterfly’- the most fragrant pure white blooms outstanding in both the day and night garden; ‘Elizabeth’- towering green stalks topped with fragrant raspberry colored flowers. All Hedychium gingers grow in clumps that increase by underground rhizomes. As an additional benefit, they also attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

   Among the vast family of Salvia (Sage) is a fall blooming member commonly referred to as Mexican Sage. Typically growing to 4 feet tall each season, this Sage is one that truly stands out in the fall. Wooly purple blooms appear above fuzzy, grayish leaves for months, attracting many butterflies. This plant is very easily grown in full sun with good drainage. A few other qualities include good salt tolerance, deer resistance, and excellent drought tolerance.

   Gardeners- let me ask you a question. Why are you still sitting in the house when there are so many delightful plants to enjoy in the fall garden? Along the South Carolina coast, this is the season for both planting and enjoying the benefits of "Fall’s Fantastic Four" at your home.

   Come by Tropical Nursery for these great fall blooming plant selections. We are located just one block off Highway 17 at 801 25th Ave. South in N.M.B. and are
   Importance of Establishment

   By Jay Keeter

   The practice of water  is both an environmental and economical issue in home gardening. There is an increasing awareness about landscape watering needs, especially when that vastly increased water bill comes in after a month of summer watering. Those water-guzzling turf lawns will consume up to 70% of drinking water used in some drier parts of our country. It is for this reason that both homeowners and landscape designers now welcome more trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials, and less grass, into their gardens to conserve on water use. With fewer lawns and more beds, a gardener can conserve more of that precious (and costly) resource. The use of water-wise plants is now considered a worthwhile endeavor by most gardeners. However there seems to be a misunderstanding about the meaning of drought tolerance within the landscape. The term "drought tolerant" does not mean "needs no water", especially during the early establishment of a newly planted specimen.
   How should we define plant establishment and how long does it take? The answer is complex and depends on many factors. One of these variables is in reference to the time of year in which the plant is installed. Even though we all get spring fever in those months of March through May, fall is actually the best time to plant the following items. Trees, shrubs, and perennials will be successfully planted now, since there is less heat stress on plants. Less heat stress results in less watering, as the ground around the plant dries out more slowly and plant growth is more moderate. Another factor involves soil structure. A sandy, well draining soil retains water for a shorter amount of time than a clay soil. This can often confuse gardeners who may not realize how wet soils can remain just below the surface. This can be even more confusing when a thin layer of fill dirt is applied over existing clay. Remember- it takes both air and water at the root system for good plant growth. If the soil is constantly saturated, then air pockets around the roots remain wet and roots have no access to air. This results in root rot and plant death. Yet another factor involves plant size at time of purchase. Large plants in small containers (demonstrating a large crown to root ratio) will require more long term attention. Large trees may even take several years to become well established. During that time, these plants may require regular, deep watering that penetrates the entire root ball when the weather is hot and dry. All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of an accurate answer to the often asked question of "How often should I water everything in my yard?"
   A simple definition of plant establishment may be the following: it is a condition when plant roots have left the confinement of their container and have grown into the surrounding soil, thus being able to supply the plant’s water needs in most situations. Unfortunately it is not always obvious to the gardener when that condition exists. With succulents and cacti (plants that store water in stems or leaves for long periods of time) proper watering may be infrequent for only a short period of time for plant establishment. Many native plants may have adapted well to local conditions and require only minimal watering to become well established. Most ornamental trees and shrubs used in today’s landscaping are neither cacti nor native plants, so careful monitoring of their water needs is essential for good growth. The initial attention you provide to newly installed plant material- be it for weeks, months, or years-has a long lasting effect on plant success.
   If you have questions or comments about this article, call or come by Tropical Nursery at 801 25th Ave. S. in N.M B. where our well trained and experienced staff will help you.

   Antique Roses Root From
          Fall Cuttings
                      By Jay Keeter

  Roses are one of the most popular flowering shrubs in many gardens throughout the world. Unfortunately, the constant and enduring high humidity of our coastal region can pose many problems to local rose gardeners. However, there is a solution that will allow you to enjoy disease free roses without constantly spraying the fungicides often associated with proper rose care. Making wise choices in regard to varieties is the key to success. Avoid the floribunda and hybrid tea roses, and use either the recently introduced landscape roses or antique roses. Fortunately for avid gardeners, antique roses are non-patented and can be easily and legally propagated from cuttings taken in the fall of the year.

   First, let’s consider the history of antique roses. As the name would suggest, these roses have been around for a long time. ‘Old Blush’ roses were in the colonial gardens of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. ‘Lady Banksia’ roses adorn Charleston courtyards today, just as they did centuries ago.  ‘Bermuda Spice’, which seems particularly well suited to our area, produces a fragrance that is reason enough to make it a staple in any garden. Rosa mutabilis, also known as the ‘Butterfly Rose’, is known for its ambiguous pattern of bloom color. The ‘Butterfly Rose’ bud is copper colored, but opens as a yellow flower. As that simple yellow flower matures, it takes on shades of pink and finally darkens to nearly crimson. Exhibiting four distinct colors throughout the summer and fall makes the ‘Butterfly Rose’ both distinctive and attractive. Often antique roses are the type you remember from your grandmother’s flower beds, whose scents may revive pleasant childhood memories. Since any plant patents would have long expired on these centuries old treasures, it is perfectly legal, and relatively easy, to propagate these roses from cuttings taken in October. You can root cuttings and turn them into new plants for yourself or to share with friends. Producing plants that are free, historically significant, and capable of reviving childhood memories can be easy and fun. But be patient, as the process may take months.

   Before I continue with propagation instructions, it is only fair to plant breeders and to gardeners to explain the meaning of plant patent protection. When newly developed and patented roses are first introduced, propagation by unapproved growers is prohibited by law. A few popular roses that currently maintain a patent include the very popular ‘Knock Out’ series, as well as ‘Candy Oh’ and ‘Oso Easy’ roses. These are all high performance, low maintenance roses that perform well in most gardens. However, making new plants from cuttings of these roses is a strict no-no!
   Antique roses, although very satisfactory in the garden, are not always available at retail nurseries. A few specialty mail order companies (such as The Antique Rose Emporium) offer a wide range of choices. Local nurseries may only offer a few choices sporadically through the year. This lack of availability is just another reason to propagate your own plants. Often the purchase of a stock plant to work from is the only expense.
   The method of propagation may be best described in three easy steps. Take your cuttings now and just follow these directions:

   STEP1- Select a suitable cutting (pencil width or slightly smaller) about 6 -8 inches long. Make your lower cut at a 45% angle, just below where leaves join that semi-woody stem. Remove lower leaves, and keep a few leaves at the top of the cutting.

   STEP2- Quickly dip the lower end of your cutting into a rooting hormone (Rootone and Dip-n Grow are two popular types) and tap the stem lightly to remove excess powder or liquid. Insert one or more cuttings into a pot of appropriate rooting medium. Some growers use a mix of sand and perlite, while others use a well draining commercial potting soil for their planting medium.

   STEP 3- Moisten your cuttings, but do not keep them constantly soggy. If you do not possess a cold frame, sun room, or greenhouse, then put a clear plastic bag over the pot(to retain a higher humidity)and place the pot on a windowsill. Plants must be left in a pot for several months, since most rooting will occur within 7 to 10 weeks. As spring arrives, transplant rooted plants into well prepared beds in full or nearly full sun.
   If you have questions about plant propagation or purchasing landscape roses, come by Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. South in N.M.B.
Our experienced staff will be glad to help you with all your gardening needs.

New Fall Plantings Reflect
      Southern Charm

   Daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth are the bulbs we commonly plant in the fall for next year's color. While they are the traditional harbingers of spring, they are fully surpassed in longevity and beauty by many summer flowering bulbs. These mid-season bloomers are considered classic southern pass-along plants due to their rapid rate of multiplication and ease of division. This fall consider planting crinums, agapanthus, or hardy amaryllis as an alternative to the typical bulb choices.

   Perhaps the most historically significant of these southern heirloom plants are crinum lilies. Reports of crinums having survived for hundreds of years at abandoned home sites are not uncommon, outlasting daffodil plantings by multiple generations. You could compare planting a bed of crinums similar to investing into a horticultural savings account for the grandchildren.
   Crinum lilies are adaptable to wet or dry soils, and grow well in full sun to partial shade. The strap-like leaves create a tropical impression in the garden, and the large trumpet shaped flowers will dazzle onlookers during the summer. Bloom color varies by species, often in shades of dark rose/pink (Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet), white with red stripes (Crinum 'Stars and Stripes), blush pink (Crinum powelli), and pure white (crinum alba). Multiple clusters of flowers top off 2-3 ft. tall bloom spikes, making their spectacular presence obvious from quite a distance. However, don't worry if the deer spot them, crinum lilies are considered deer resistant and actually seem to have no pest problems during their long lives.

   Equally easy to grow, but blooming weeks earlier than crinums, is the hardy Amaryllis 'Voodoo'. This plant displays beautiful flowers about mid-spring. The display of stunning orange/red, funnel shaped flowers contrasts well against the glossy green foliage, which becomes bronze tinged in full sun. Excellent cold tolerance (surviving brief dips near
0 degrees) makes this amaryllis a superb addition to gardens in all parts of the Southeast. A location in full sun with well drained soil is all that is required for success with this plant. Amaryllis 'Voodoo' does multiply rapidly, so I hope you have gardening friends to share this plant with.

   Although all agapanthus are native to South Africa, they are equally at home in South Carolina. Agapanthus are commonly referred to as Lily of the Nile. Their root system is more tuberous than the bulbous crinum lily, and initially resents being disturbed. When installed in our southern soils and left undisturbed, gorgeous spheres of tubular blue, purple, or white flowers are held high above the foliage during the summer. Available in dwarf forms (less than 2 ft. tall) or larger forms (slightly over 3 ft. tall), all Lily of the Nile have tropical looking strap-like foliage. A few popular varieties include the following: White Heaven-huge 10 inch wide flower clusters of pure white; Silver Baby- dwarf plants sporting white blooms with a blue edge; Blue Heaven-very winter hardy blue bloomer with occasional re-bloom during the summer; and Storm Cloud- later blooming with large purple/blue flowers.  Once established, Lily of the Nile are considered xeric plants, which require very little water or care, and are deer resistant.

   The planning and planting that you do now affects the appearance of your garden for decades, or even for generations. With the increased availability of choice plant products and the perfect fall planting conditions, there is no excuse to keep sitting on that couch. Milder temperatures, increased rainfall, and a long fall growing season provide local gardeners a great opportunity not available to folks further north or west. Take best advantage of this time of the year and put those dependable summer flowering southern plants in the ground now.

    If you are anxious to install the plants discussed in this article, or have gardening questions, come by Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. South, North Myrtle. Our professional staff will gladly help you with your entire horticultural needs.  Visit for  contact information or to read more gardening articles.

Plant a Patriotic Garden for Veteran's Day
   Americans, living in the world's greatest democracy, are allowed to express their love of country in various ways at different times during the year.  Recent heavy participation in the political process of voting reflects a great enthusiasm for citizen involvement in government.  The celebration of our sovereign nation on July 4th marks the pinnacle of our summer season.  Many of America's favorite sports are played only after the presentation of Old Glory and the singing of our national anthem.  A more solemn expression of our patriotism emerges annually on the days when our country has hurt the most, whether it be Pearl Harbor Day or September 11.  However, the common thread that is instrumental in sewing together the fabric of America has been the pivotal role of our nation's veterans throughout our country's history.
   Without an active armed forces, from colonial days until the present time, our fate as a nation could not be at its current status.  It is certainly appropriate that we set aside a day to honor the men and women who have made this great nation what it is.  Veteran's Day will be celebrated across the country today, but enthusiastic gardeners can make a statement that will last for months.
   A patriotic garden is easy to construct, as the primary elements within the planting scheme involve the use of red, white and blue colored flowers.  Plant arrangements can vary from complex to simple.  Some gardeners, with ample space, will plant in a pattern that actually resembles the American flag.  Others will use a design suggesting a wave of patriotism, with curving lines of color arranged horizontally within a rectangular bed.  Smaller groupings of plants, with a more abstract arrangement of color, may express the many unbridled privileges available to our country's citizens.
   The selection of plants for a patriotic garden varies with the seasons.  Currently, in the Southeast, a popular combination involves snapdragons, pansies and violas; these three types of plants are readily available at most garden centers and are relatively inexpensive since they can be purchased as bedding plants.  The following suggestion for plant arrangement may be helpful to gardeners: taller-growing red snapdragons can be installed at the back of your bed; place white pansies forward of the snapdragons and install the more diminutive blue violas at the very front of this planting.  As this arrangement of plants continues to grow, each color is distinctly visible with the tallest plants at the back and increasingly smaller plants toward the front of your bed.
   As summer approaches and the heat increases, you will need to discard the winter annuals discussed in this article.  However, spring planting allows an even greater variety of plants in red, white and blue; you may actually be overwhelmed by appropriate plant choices at that time of year.  One of my favorite combinations involves red hibiscus, blue plumbago and white vinca.  The hotter it gets, the better these plants perform.  This makes them perfect for our entire summer and they will be particularly impressive for your Fourth of July celebration.
   In addition, there are a few equally appropriate perennial plants that can be installed now to complete your patriotic garden.  In these cases the plant names have a significant patriotic value: the Crinum Lily "Stars and Stripes", Rose of Sharon "Freedom" and Setcreasea "Purple Heart".
   In honor of Veteran's Day, all veterans and active-service members receive 20% off their plant purchases through the end of November at our nursery retail location; mention this article to receive the discount.  For additional gardening tips or to install plants discussed in this article, visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th Ave. South in North Myrtle Beach.  Our professional staff will gladly assist you with your entire horticultural needs.  Visit for contact information and to read more gardening articles.

         By Jay Keeter

   As cooler weather approaches, many disgruntled gardeners begin the arduous task of bringing tropical plants in from the cold. Current night temperatures are consistently cooler than a few weeks ago, and cold sensitive plants are showing some signs of stress. However, that stress may be due to more than cool weather, as many pests may still inhabit your plants.

   Proceed with caution when re-locating plants from outside to indoors. Many existing insects that may be hitching a ride inside your home will continue to thrive within those warmer walls. Inspect plants closely while they are still outside, since this would be the best time to apply insecticides. The application of pesticides within your home may result in surface damage (wood, plastic, marble, etc.) or contamination of utensils or eating surfaces. Often rubbing or rinsing plants with a soapy solution, while they are still outside, will eliminate many insects. Be particularly attentive to the underside of leaves, which provide a comfortable hosting area for various types of mites and scale insects. Treat the affected areas with a solution consisting of 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to one gallon of water. Some gardeners also add 1/4th cup of baking soda to the mixture for additional fungus control. If a more potent pesticide is necessary, then try one of the agricultural oils. These products are marketed under such names as Neem Oil, Volck Oil, or All Season Oil, and most are considered very safe to the environment.

   Plants brought into the home's interior usually grow in less than ideal conditions, and the effects of pest attacks can be more damaging to these stressed plants. One consequence of plant stress is often a lower resistance to pathogens and insects. Additional problems are incurred since there is usually a significant reduction in light within your home. Generally, the lower light and temperature inside, as compared to that of the warmer growing season, will slow down a plant's metabolism. Compounding the problem even more is the practice of watering plants inside the home. Over time, a toxic level of soluble salts will build up due to poor leaching of minerals in the water.

   In the life of a plant, this re-location process is very traumatic. If you can remember to start "acclimating" a plant a few weeks before bringing it inside, then you can reduce the amount of yellowing and leaf drop. The most successful method of acclimation is a gradual process. Starting several weeks before the arrival of cold weather, you should start weaning off the plant from the summer growing conditions. Every few days, shift the potted plant into a little less light, and begin to reduce the amount of water applied to the soil. The flaw in this plan is our memory, or lack of it. You must remember to start the process weeks before the end of the growing season.

   Once inside, many plants of tropical origin will not actively grow when temperatures dip below 55 degrees, so keep that thermostat set a little higher. If using an unheated garage or shed, then expect to retrieve a struggling specimen next spring. When placing a plant within the home, avoid the effects of drafty areas or vents. A   location near a sunny window or glass door will provide some light for limited photosynthesis. When light comes from only one direction, then you should rotate your plant weekly. This process will result in less leggy, one sided growth.

   A final thought, or should I say question, on overwintering plants: Is it worth it? If the plant can be purchased in great condition at a reasonable price in the spring, then why bother? On the other hand, sentimental favorites, hard to find, or very costly plants may be just worth the extra work.

     If you have questions about proper horticultural practices or plants, stop by Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. South in N.M.B.  Our trained and experienced staff will be happy to help you with any garden problems. Visit our website for contact information or to read more gardening articles.

Preserving The Past,
Growing The Future
      By Jay Keeter

   Whether you may be renovating your current home or installing a new home's landscape, it is important to identify and preserve any valuable existing site elements. An established tree may add character to your new landscape that cannot be duplicated by the installation of containerized or freshly dug plant material. There may also be some usable shrubs which can be more effective if relocated. A single specimen or a group of native plants are often important assets when left undisturbed. Avoiding damage to existing pavement and utilities could save hundreds of dollars in repair expenses. Minimizing soil compaction may improve future performance of all the plant material. A land owner must also be able to protect adjacent wetlands or sand dunes as required by law. These site elements can all be affected by both new home construction and renovations of existing landscapes. Therefore, previous to the start of work, a homeowner or contractor should always identify the elements that need protection, and take steps to preserve those features during the construction process.
   Before beginning any work, you should be aware of the construction area's limits - where you are NOT to work. This may be indicated on construction diagrams or as property lines designated by a surveyor. Many disputes between neighbors develop over the location of their property perimeters.
   When assessing the value of existing plant material, ask yourself the following questions. Will the plant(s) contribute to an improved appearance, or detract from it? Is the existing material in good condition and free of prior damage? Are the plants being considered able to survive the new environment? If your   answer is "Yes" to those questions, then proceed according to the following suggestions.
   Always call the local utilities service to have underground lines marked. Avoid excessive trenching, compacting of soil, toxic chemicals, and abrupt grade changes within close proximity of valuable plants. Indicate areas within the drip line of trees which should not be disturbed. Under normal growing conditions, there is a correlation between feeder roots and the outer edge of the tree's canopy. The drip line is a designated area on the  ground at the outer edge of the foliage. Protect this area by erecting a temporary barrier that clearly indicates where no chemical work, tractor traffic, or grade changes can occur. In some cases, a tree well may be necessary. A tree well serves as a permanent barrier which prevents the occurrence of damaging grade changes within the drip line.
   To successfully relocate existing plant material, you should replant it immediately or store it correctly. The storage process is simple. You should either repot the plant in a container or tuck it into a mound of soil or straw. Always strive to retain a significant amount of soil around the root ball, and moisten the plant on a regular basis.
    Soil compaction often explains mysterious problem areas in the yard. This can be avoided by careful use of heavy machinery, and corrected by tilling, disking, turning, or hard raking of compacted areas before installing plants or sod. Heavy machinery can also damage existing concrete or asphalt structures, such as driveways or walks. The placement of plywood over pavement will more evenly distribute the weight of machinery and reduce both damage and clean up time at the project.
   If your property is adjacent to wetlands, dunes, or other legally protected areas, then you are required to leave these areas undisturbed. It is important to preserve these environmentally sensitive areas for our own sake as well as the sake of our children. You, or your contractor, must avoid direct or indirect impact upon these designated areas. To avoid a violation, flooding or draining & plant destruction is prohibited, as well as any practice resulting in soil compaction. 

   Are you considering a yard renovation? At Tropical Nursery we specialize in renovations to improve the appearance of your property. Call (272-6043) or come by to meet our trained and experienced staff, or to set up an appointment for your yard renovation.

Impressive Plants For The  Winter
         By Jay Keeter

   The first cold snap of winter has arrived along the coast, and the more cold sensitive plants certainly show the expected distress. Gardeners should not be surprised or alarmed by the brown foliage left after a few nights of freezing temperatures. After all, the cold arrives annually at about this same time each year and impresses upon us the fact that our location is only semi-tropical, and subject to occasional cold weather. I personally enjoy seeing the seasons change, and have learned to appreciate the winter and the often overlooked beauty of winter's showiest plants.
   This is a time of the year when the form of evergreen plants can be an important part of your garden's beauty. Correct pruning during the growing season should yield the best appearance of many plants. The rounded "meatball" shape of Dwarf Yaupon, Indian Hawthorne, and Carissa Holly now effectively dot many landscapes along the coast. Tightly trimmed Japanese Yew, as well as tall, slender Italian Cypress and Sky Pencil Holly resemble soldiers standing at attention around the yard. Even the natural growth habit of Leyland Cypress, Green Giant Thuja, and our native Red Cedar contribute to the spirit of the season with a growth habit that reminds us of a Christmas tree.
   The winter is not without its blooming plants. Ushering in the early winter are abundant blooms upon Camellia Sasanqua. Camellia Sasanqua 'Shi Shi Gashira' is not only compact in its growth habit, but may also bloom for about 100 days once established. Tolerant of sun or shade, deer resistant, and relatively drought tolerant, 'Shi Shi Gashira' is a valuable addition to anyone's garden. Camellia Sasanquas are offered in a variety of growth habits. Some are compact, others are upright, and still others are pendulous as they grow. A great combination planting involves both Camellia Sasanqua and Camellia Japonica. Only a few weeks after Camellia Sasanqua blooms begin to fade, then the earliest blooming Camellia Japonica blooms begin to open. Different varieties of Camellia Japonica may be early, mid-season, or late blooming. A combination of these varieties enables the gardener to have permanent evergreen plants in their landscape which bloom in succession from early winter through spring.
   Don't forget the berries of winter. Espaliered Pyracantha can be used on blank walls to change the drab to exciting. Apparantly the birds also find the berries attractive, and will come through when the berries are fully ripened and make a meal of them. Traditionally, the berries of various hollies decorate both inside and outside of the home at Christmas. Another great winter plant, which produces berries that hang in a grape-like cluster, is Nandina. However, not all Nandina will produce berries. When hybrids are developed, some plant characteristics are enhanced while others are eliminated. If you have planted the variety Nandina 'Firepower', then you will never have berries upon this sterile hybrid. All Nandina produce great red/orange foliage color during cold weather, and produce an airy appearance similar to a clumping Bamboo. Nandina 'Harbor Dwarf' rarely exceeds 2 feet tall, whereas the old fashioned Nandina Domestica may reach your roofline. Several types exist whose height will be between those two extremes, so choose a variety that is most appropriate for your garden space.
   Enjoy the beauty and bounty of a winter garden. We are so fortunate along the coast to have many warmer days mixed in with these few cold days. Don't allow yourself to miss the beauty nature offers us even in this coldest part of the year.
   Come by Tropical Nursery (801 25th Ave. S., N.M.B.) to see a wide selection of winter blooming plants. Ask our garden professionals about the right plant for your yard. Visit our web site for more contact information.

Plant Hardy Trees
    This Winter
   By Jay Keeter

   Don't put that shovel away yet! Folks who have only recently re-located to the South may think I am talking about snow shovels, but that is a tool you may only use rarely here. Using the garden shovel for digging holes in December may seem a little surprising to some, but local gardeners have long appreciated the benefit of planting hardy trees during the winter.
   Since most new home sites are completely void of mature trees, there certainly exists the need for this type of planting. Some homeowners may need trees in moist areas for the control of excessive water. One horticulturalist suggests a full grown maple, willow, or river birch may be able to soak up 50 gallons of water in a single day. Other homeowners, with no shade during our hotter months, may find that some fast growing specimens will make the summer more bearable. Correctly positioned shade trees can also save you money at home by making the cooling process less expensive. Of course, all homeowners (in fact all Earthly inhabitants) depend upon trees to make our air breathable. Acting as a filter of air pollutants, as well as producing breathable oxygen, trees are essential to our very existence.

   Trees may also support the wildlife that entertains us. During the winter, birds search anxiously among beautyberry and holly for the seeds contained within their berries. Of course, trees serve as homes for many of our local furry and feathered friends, and provide safe refuge from predators. Animal enthusiasts wishing to attract wildlife should start by recreating small woodland plots into their existing landscape, and then go buy a pair of binoculars. Animals will come to those sites if they provide a source of water, food, and shelter.

   The aesthetic value of trees in the landscape cannot be understated. Great specimen trees such as magnolia, cypress, or oak may add strength to the landscape design for centuries. In the shorter term, we may enjoy the spring flowering redbud, summer blooming crape myrtle, or the fall colors of our native maple and sweet gum. Both the weeping growth habit and the heavy display of red berries upon weeping yaupon bring winter interest to our gardens. Groups of trees may be effective for enframement of other landscape elements. Excellent examples of this design principle can be viewed at Brookgreen Gardens, where trees are used to direct your attention to the outdoor statuary. There you will also see massive oaks dripping with Spanish moss standing like mammoth cathedrals above the pathways. In every case where you may have admired a beautiful tree, it started as a small sprout. Whether it be by a natural process, or by a man's action, the presence of trees is essential to beauty in our gardens.

   Fruiting trees have been a staple in Southern gardens since the earliest colonists arrived. One traditional Southern fruit, the edible fig, thrives in our coastal region and provides a sweet fruit that is envied by those in colder climates. More recently, loquat trees have become very popular in the landscape due to their plum-like fruit. Despite Georgia's claim to fame as the peach state, South Carolina actually produces more peaches. As the price of fresh fruit increases, it makes good sense to grow your own fruit- and you can control the use of chemicals in the home garden.

   When considering correct planting time and techniques, one must look at how the tree is being made available. Bare root plants are best installed now, while the plants are most dormant. These plants, often available at big box stores and by mail order, usually cost about 1/3 less than a similar plant grown in a container. A large selection of deciduous fruiting and flowering trees are available as bare root material at this time of the year. Many varieties of field grown trees, both evergreen and deciduous, are successfully transplanted during the cool season as well. This allows the landscaper to successfully install larger plant material than is typically found in containers. Field grown trees can be dug, bagged in burlap, and delivered to the gardener for planting from now until warmer spring weather arrives. Summer planting of field grown trees is generally considered a riskier horticultural practice. Containerized trees are excellent for planting at any time of the year.

   You may be asking "Why go out in the cold and wet of winter to plant a tree when I could wait until the warmth of spring?". Two of the most important reasons deal with our climate. Our rain water amounts usually increase during this time of year, which lessens the burden of correct watering by the homeowner. The second reason, which has been very obvious with the cooler temperatures recently, is the reduction in heat stress. We all get spring fever around April, but hot, dry weather soon follows, making plant survival more difficult. These cooler, wetter days of winter allow newly installed plants to gradually grow into the soil as spring approaches. So bundle up in some warm clothes and grab that shovel. Now is the time to install a tree, or a few, in your yard.

   Are you looking for trees to plant in your yard? Come by Tropical Nursery in North Myrtle Beach for a large selection of trees that grow well in our area- including fruiting, flowering, and shade trees.Visit for contact information

Snow Improves Soil
      by Jay Keeter

   One powerful weather phenomenon, although somewhat infrequent in occurrence, affects our lives in ways we may rarely consider.  As coastal residents, we are fortunate to live in an area whose weather is often considered the most desirable in the southeastern United States.  When that freak snowstorm does arrive in our area, our reactions vary.  Many recently relocated residents from northern states may scowl at the first snowflake.  This is an understandable reaction from folks who moved to the coast to get away from the snow.  Other people, less weary of Mother Nature's freezing wrath, may see any snowfall as a joyous occasion.  To those folks, it provides an opportunity to brew some hot cocoa, enjoy the warmth of a fireplace, cook a big pot of steaming hot soup with a cake of cornbread, perhaps engage in a snowball fight or build a snowman.  Although our reactions to snow may vary from household to household, the positive effect of snow on soil is always the same.
   A beneficial increase in fertility occurs with each snowfall, desiccation (dehydration) from drought is reduced and soil temperatures become more moderate.  The structure of a snowflake is very porous with large air pockets within the frozen medium.  This arrangement of air, encapsulated within frozen water, creates a very effective type of insulation as it accumulates upon the ground.  The results of a Purdue University study indicate soil temperature will increase by about 2 degrees for every inch of accumulation in comparison to control plots where the snow is not allowed to accumulate.  Farmers, when threatened by damaging cold, often try to imitate this principle by spraying water over tender crops to create an ice blanket.
   Another benefit of snow is similar to that of a soaking rain.  Snow and rain bring needed moisture to both evergreen and deciduous plants.  Even though heat stress is very low, plants still lose significant amounts of water during the winter.  Plant metabolism, although slower now than in warmer months, still demands some water to maintain good plant health.  An additional stress involves desiccation due to excessive wind activity.  Even though the wind is cold, it still removes moisture rapidly from exposed limbs.  Snow replenishes that moisture to twigs and branches that may otherwise be subject to winterkill.
   Our occasional snows also contribute to an increased fertility of our nutrient-depleted coastal soils.  During snowfall, and especially after snowmelt, there is a release of nitrogen, a necessary element for plant growth, into the soil in a form that can eventually be utilized by plants.  Snow also contains appreciable quantities of air and water, both of which are highly dynamic.  This air/water combination provides carbon dioxide, hydrogen and oxygen which are necessary for plant metabolism to occur.  Snow is actually a reservoir of nutrients and, as it melts, it delivers many elemental nutrients to the soil.
   As weather goes, coastal residents have little to complain about.  The occasional snowfall may be either welcomed or despised but the brief duration quickly calms all emotions.  However, there are garden enthusiasts who understand the value of a snowfall to their landscape.  These gardens are the ones who may already be entertaining optimistic thoughts of spring and realize this snow holds the promise of garden success.  As the new year approaches, we could all benefit from the kind of optimism that only real gardeners can find in winter's snow.
   We would like to wish our readers a Happy New Year from Tropical Nursery, and hope this lawn care advice is valuable to you during the upcoming year. Visit us at or at our retail shop in N M B ,SC.

Pruning Tips For
by Jay Keeter

   The winter solstice has only recently passed and the longer days of sunlight are on the increase. Plants that have been lulled into their sleepy hibernation for winter are still deep in repose. Even though many plants are in a dormant state at this time of the year, they still need some attention. Winter pruning, when performed correctly, provides benefits to the plant for years to come.
   Mistakes made during the process of winter pruning will result in damage to a plant's structure that may take years to correct. Often neighbors observe poor pruning techniques in their neighborhood and think that style should be imitated. The most common mistakes usually involve only a few plants, and the correct instructions can be easily followed by even the most novice gardener.
   Instructions for pruning in January should begin with a statement about what not to cut. Well meaning gardeners, who are incorrect in their assumptions, may think that everything should be shaped up before spring arrives. However, pruning of camellia japonica, azalea, Indian hawthorne, hydrangea, and many types of viburnum will remove the wood which will produce spring blooms. These plants should be pruned immediately after they bloom, and re-pruned no later than mid-summer. Flower buds begin to develop on many of these shrubs around June. Pruning after the middle of June can result in few or no blooms at a later date.
   In regard to semi-tropical plants, such as Washingtonian, sago, and canary island date palms, as well as oleander and banana, the severity of cold damage will dictate the amount of pruning. Any brown fronds on these palms should be removed before spring growth emerges, as the damaged portions will not "green up" again. Both banana trees and oleander vary in cold hardiness according to variety. The ornamental red velvet banana, although root hardy in our area, should be cut down to near ground level each year. Basjoo banana, considered the world's most cold hardy within the genus, may only require the removal of a few brown leaves in the winter. Many older varieties of oleander will only be slightly damaged by the freezing weather. Newer oleander hybrids (such as Calypso) will demonstrate significant winterkill each year and require more significant pruning.
   A few varieties of hydrangea will bloom on new growth, but most will only produce flowers on buds developing upon the previous year's growth. Although it is tempting to severely prune their bare stalks to the ground during the winter, these deciduous shrubs should only be pruned lightly at this time. More severe pruning to achieve a desirable size should be performed immediately after flowering.
   Perennial flowers, those which die back to the ground each winter and return during the warmer growing season, should be trimmed back to near ground level. This technique also applies to ornamental grasses. Leaving a few inches (slightly higher on grasses) of dormant growth above the crown of the plant is considered correct pruning. Common perennials in coastal areas to which this applies include the following: lantana, coneflower, salvia, daylily, hosta, fern, Asiatic lily, bush petunia, elephant ear, plumbago, and verbena. These plants quickly rebound in warmer weather if trimmed back correctly, mulched to an appropriate depth, and then fertilized in the spring.
   Perhaps the most dreadful pruning I observe each year is performed upon crape myrtle. The results are so offensive to trained horticulturists that they have coined a term for this incorrect style of pruning. The phrase "crape murder" is often applied to the affected plant. The desired plant architecture for large growing varieties of crape myrtle involves multiple trunks, cleared of weak or spindly branches to a height of at least several feet. A good arborist will trim away small branches along the trunks and allow more widespread branching in the top 1/3 of the tree. Rounding off the top (avoid cutting the top flat) to remove old seed pods and small stems is the acceptable method of pruning. Do not make your cut at exactly the same place from year to year. When cut at the same place, the result is an appearance referred to as "knuckling". Indeed, the result looks similar to a clenched fist at the end of your arm. Weak branches will sprout from this area and produce floppy, unimpressive growth with poor blooms. Always make the current year's cut at least a few inches above or below last winter's pruning.  Although occasionally severe corrective pruning is needed, generally no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire plant size should be removed.
   Take advantage of the few warm days in January to perform the necessary pruning correctly. The results of proper pruning now will assure strong plant growth and increased garden beauty during the next year.
   Do you need help with your winter pruning? Our trained staff at Tropical Nursery can provide this service at a reasonable rate. Call us at 272-6043 to set up your appointment.

   Often overlooked in winter, the bareness of many deciduous trees can be a real asset to many gardens. Frequently these trees do double duty, providing color and/or shade during the warmer season, while providing interesting form and texture during the cooler season. With many of these plants, the unique architecture of the tree or its trunk texture is best expressed when bare of leaves. With little competition from other plants during the winter, deciduous trees stand out proudly in their naked glory during the winter. The structural shape, or architecture, of a tree can be an outstanding feature in the winter garden. Weeping Mulberries, Weeping Willows, even the lightly foliaged form of Weeping Yaupon seem to reach downward, trying to make a connection to the ground beneath it. Each of these trees can provide significant interest to the landscape. The pendulous form of a Weeping Willow seems to dance above the Earth in the slightest wind. Weeping Mulberry provides a stiffer form, unchallenged by the most vigorous winds. The lightly foliaged Weeping Yaupon, although not completely bare of leaves, has a great display of berries that overwhelmingly demands the viewer's attention.
   A few deciduous species of Magnolia (not to be confused with the evergreen Southern Magnolia) present blooms in shades of pink, purple, or white during the late winter, even before their leaves emerge.  Magnolia stellata ' Waterlily' produces buds that open into fragrant white flowers on well branched plants. Often landscape designers consider this an excellent tree expressing impressive color contrast when planted with the background of a red brick wall.  This compact tree is slow growing, but well worth the wait. A larger, and faster growing deciduous Magnolia, referred to as 'Galaxy', grows into a pyramidal form and produces large purple blooms, often as early as February in the coastal region. Wow- what a great treat to the gardeners who cannot wait until spring for color in their yard! Quickly following these early bloomers, spring flowering trees such as Red Bud and Purple Leaf Plum express themselves in a nearly continuous succession of color. Try planting these trees in groupings for a nonstop treat during the late winter and early spring.
   Trees such as Crape Myrtle, Lacebark Elm, and River Birch present beautiful mottled bark which exfoliates in irregular patches as the tree grows. The attractive bark pattern is best appreciated during the winter, when the foliage does not block the gardener's view of the trunk. One hybrid form of Lacebark Elm (a.k.a. Allee Elm or Emerald Vase) can be an excellent street tree, shade tree, or winter interest tree when planted in the correct location. Crape Myrtle, although often overplanted in commercial settings, is a beautiful tree for the homeowner in both winter and summer. Over one hundred  varieties are available, growing from only a few feet tall up to over 30 feet tall. Certainly, with the vast choices of growth habits available, any homeowner should be able to find one that is right for them. Although red blooming varieties of Crape Myrtle are still the most popular choice, trees with purple, pink, or white blooms are in increasing demand. One such hybrid, Crape Myrtle 'Natchez' sports a white bloom during the summer. However, its dark cinnamon-brown, sinuous, mottled trunk bark is also spectacular during the winter. River Birch, one of our native trees, produces shiny cream to orange/brown bark when young. The bark on mature trees becomes more reddish brown to grayish brown. The bark peels freely from its trunk, exfoliating into paper like sheets. River Birch is grown  for its beautiful bark, as well as for its ability to grow successfully in very wet or heavy soils.
   Gardeners are becoming increasingly aware of the value of deciduous trees to provide winter interest in the landscape, as well as for their spring and summer beauty. When homesites are cleared of every existing tree for the convenience of the contractor, much of nature's beauty is lost. The preservation of any significant existing tree, as well as the planting of new trees, is essential to a well designed garden. Make it a garden priority to improve your landscape this winter by planting the best tree choices now, while Mother Nature provides the best conditions for proper tree establishment.
    Are you unsure of the best tree choices for your yard? Come by Tropical Nursery during our "1/2 price on deciduous trees sale". Until the end of January, gardeners can choose from Crape Myrtle, Elm, River Birch, Magnolia,Maple, and Red Bud (as well as fruiting fig, plum, and pear) trees at this reduced price.

Deciduous Trees Enhance            The Winter Landscape
       by Jay Keeter

   Gardeners, don't let winter lull you into being complacent. There are some landscape tasks that should be performed now for benefits that will last a lifetime. The prime time for installing deciduous trees is now, and the reasons to do so are numerous. Less heat stress, increased rainfall, and a period of time that allows for a gradual adaptation to surrounding soils makes this the ideal time to install those leafless specimens in your yard.
   Fortunately, we have been spared any single digit temperatures so far this winter. Unfortunately, horticulturalists are already spotting cold damage to plants similar to the damage of 1985. What should you look for in determining the extent of winter's damage to plants in your yard, and even more important, what should you do about it?
   First, let's address several commonly asked questions about the damage to palms in our area. In this plant family, it is important to know which varieties of palms you have planted in the landscape. Not all palms are equally hardy. In most winters, you can expect Washingtonian palms and Canary Island Date palms (and frequently Sago palms) to have most existing leaves turn brown. Although both Washingtonian and Canary Island palms are hardy here, they are going to need a severe pruning after each winter. If you unknowingly purchased these palms during the summer thinking they will not turn brown each winter, then you are incorrect in your thinking. Any of the leaves that have turned brown at this time will not turn green again. Wait until March and then cut off the damaged growth. Removing the damaged palm fronds now will expose tender new growth in the middle of the palm to even more cold. Be aware of this condition: if you can pull out the soft, rotted partially emerged leaves from the middle of your palm, then often that plant will not recover and will have to be discarded later. More dependable palm replacements include Windmill palms, European Fan palms, Pindo palms and several types of Palmetto palms.
   In regard to banana plants, both the severity of the winter and the species planted will determine your actions at this time. During milder winters, you may only have to remove the brown leaves near the top of the plant. If the entire trunk of the plant feels mushy and soft, then the entire plant should be cut down to within a few inches of the ground. Since not all banana plants are winter hardy in our area, you should know the exact type of banana  plant you are purchasing. Several types of banana that have stood the test of time include bananas 'Basjoo', 'Velatina'. and 'Orinaco'.
     Visit Tropical Nursery,801 25thAve.S in North Myrtle Beach to find a selection of hardy palm trees and bananas suited to your region.

Cold's Effect on Banana and Palm Trees
         By Jay Keeter
   This winter's frigid weather may be keeping you inside, but it hasn't stopped gardeners from dreaming of spring. Gazing through plant catalogs, viewing gardening shows on television, and planning for this year's garden keeps the thoughts of confined plant enthusiasts on track. However, it only takes a stroll outside through our cold ravaged yards to prompt questions about the health of many existing plants.
   Along the S.C. coast, resident gardeners often have a slight advantage against the cold. According to the U.S.D.A. hardiness map, we are situated in the cooler part of zone 8; whereas the remainder of the Palmetto State is consider a colder zone 7. These references are useful in determining which plants can be grown in various parts of our state, but are no guarantee against the fluctuating weather patterns that affect us from year to year. In fact, our current winter has consistently produced temperatures that are more typical of those experienced in zone 7. Although unusually cold temperatures exist now, this weather pattern is not unheard of in our area. Local residents who were here in 1985 probably remember the single digit temperatures that rolled through most of the southeast, inflicting great damage to all types of agriculture.

  Perennials and Shrubs React to Winter's Wrath
        by Jay Keeter
   One of the hottest trends in plant sales recently has been the increased use of perennials in the home garden. Perennial plants are those herbaceous plants which return after each winter to multiply and bloom for many years.  Many perennials are heirloom plants that have been passed along in families from generation to generation. Other perennials are recent introductions of new and exciting varieties that will delight even the most experienced gardeners. Understanding the U.S.D.A. hardiness map is a valuable tool in determining which perennials perform the best in our area. Coastal regions of S.C. are considered to be in zone 8- slightly warmer than the remainder of S.C. (which is considered to be in zone 7). Some tender perennials- which are generally hardy in coastal zone 8 but not very far inland-may not return in the garden after this particularly cold winter. Beautiful bloomers such as Firebush, Plumbago, Dune's Sunflower, and newer introductions of Lantana seem to be root hardy to around 20 degrees. All of these plant varieties thrive during our hot and humid summer weather, and will survive more typical winters. If they do come back up, they will be slow to resurrect, so don't throw them out too early in the spring. It may be late May before new growth appears. In the case of the previously mentioned plants, if they should not come back up after May, then the occasional re-planting of these tender perennials is worthwhile.
   Many types of shrubbery grown in our coastal zone 8 may be greatly damaged by this winter's more severe weather. Oleander, Pineapple Guava, and Bottlebrush plants will recover from the cold, but be patient as this recovery may be slow. Some pruning may be beneficial. The necessary pruning will vary from plant to plant based on the plant's exposure (placement in the yard) as well as species planted. In the extremely cold winter of 1985, even established Southern Indica Azaleas experienced split bark on limbs and large dead sections within the plant. Often this type of damage does not become obvious until new growth tries to emerge in the spring.
   Although the exact severity of any winter cannot be predicted, there are steps you can take to reduce potential cold damage. Do not apply high nitrogen fertilizers late in the growing season. Do not prune severely in the later months of fall. Both of these practices can produce tender growth that will not harden off sufficiently before winter's cool temperatures arrive. To further protect the more cold sensitive plants, install them with an East to Southeast exposure, allowing the warm morning sun to lessen the duration of the previous night's cold. Installing plants in locations where an existing structure can protect them from the cold North wind is advantageous. If your landscape is still in the planning stage, then design the yard to include a windbreak of larger, cold tolerant plants on the North side of your property. This type of planting will effectively protect more temperamental plants from the coldest winds of winter. Finally, a protective layer of mulch applied before the coldest weather arrives not only protects root systems, but also improves the appearance of your yard.
     Don't despair if you look out your window and see an abundance of brown, droopy plants. Spring is right around the corner, and many of those very plants will come back with a vengeance. Gardeners are inherently optimistic. After all, who can look at a dormant plant and imagine the potential beauty that may arise from it better than a gardener?
    Do you have gardening questions? Stop by Tropical Nursery in N.M.B. and our experienced staff will be happy to "talk garden" with you. 

Blueberry- The Perfect Crop
   For Home Gardeners
              By Jay Keeter

   Gardeners who embrace the practice of installing ornamental, edible landscapes have long appreciated the use of blueberries. Blueberry plants, as well as fig and blackberry plants, are considered native fruits of North America and perform very well in our local landscapes. These plants are easily grown and satisfy gardeners in so many different ways. Imagine stepping outdoors and picking a handful of fresh blueberries to accompany your breakfast meal. Congratulating yourself on your gardening skills adds to the enjoyment. Controlling how much, or how little, pesticide was used on the plants can provide peace of mind. Of course, the immediate gratification of eating the fresh delicious fruit is undeniable. Blueberries also rank among the healthiest of foods. They are rich in anti-oxidants and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
   Landscape designers have recently begun incorporating edible plants into the landscape as a response to consumer's requests. The diversity in real estate demands a diverse application of blueberry uses. Small homes, such as a condominium or townhome, can grow blueberries as containerized plants on a porch or balcony. Homeowners with larger yards may consider the handsome plants as suitable for hedges or shrubs. Traditionally, blueberries have been grown as a row crop in gardens and on farms. Blueberries are deciduous, but prior to dropping their leaves for the winter, they provide excellent autumn color. A range of red, yellow, and orange persists for several weeks in the fall of the year. They are equally attractive in the late spring/early summer when an abundance of beautiful blue berries adorn nearly every limb of the plant.
   Berry production is dependent upon the number of cold nights (under 45 degrees) in the region, and chilling hour requirements vary between different types of blueberry plants. Coastal residents should grow varieties that require relatively low chilling hours. High chill plants will not produce in low chill areas, but low chill plants will produce fruit in the higher chill areas. Another aspect of berry production involves cross pollination.  Two different types of blueberries that bloom at the same time are necessary to create fruit. You must plant more than one blueberry plant to assure fruit production.
   Proper cultural controls include the use of an acidic fertilizer with low nitrogen content, applied in spring and late summer. The addition of calcium, often applied as crushed egg shells, is beneficial. Provide at least 6 hours of sunlight, and water frequently during foliar and fruit production. If installing plants in the ground, incorporate a well composted, organic soil amendment to improve the soil quality. For containerized plants, a good potting soil containing peat moss should be used.
   The following list of blueberry plants consists of introductions from N.C. State and the University of Florida, and all do well in our coastal region. The first 3 varieties are referred as southern highbush, and the remaining 2 are rabbiteye, and all are low chill.
   Emerald -berries are abundant, large, sweet; very disease resistant; University of Florida introduction growing with a spreading habit
   Star-another Florida introduction with very high quality fruit; disease resistant; medium vigor makes this a good container plant
   Windsor- a Florida introduction with high yield potential and large berry size; vigorous growth and stout stems make this an impressive landscape specimen
   Powder Blue- light colored berries with good taste; introduced by N.C. State; fruit appears later than on Florida varieties (Hint: plant some of both for prolonged fresh fruit availability)
   Premier- this N.C. State introduction is often recommended for fresh fruit farms and homeowners; vigorous growth produces large fruit with good color and flavor
   Blueberry plants may be installed in our area at any time of the year. Planting them in the late winter will insure you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. A word of caution: if your new blueberry plants are blooming and a late freeze occurs, then you may have no fruit. Covering the plants that are outdoors or bringing in the containerized plants will protect blooms in this situation. The plant's stems and roots are very cold tolerant, only the blooms are more tender. Once plants are well established, this is rarely a problem. None the less, newly purchased plants should initially be handled with care until they become more established. The ease and success of growing blueberries should  encourage any  gardener interested in  planting edible fruits. Do yourself a favor and bring an end to those winter blues by planting some blueberries.
   Do you have questions in regard to growing or purchasing blueberry plants? Come to Tropical Nursery in N.M.B. to view a wide selection of plants and get professional advice on which plants are right for you.

   Start by purchasing plant material that is healthy and well established in its growing media. Containerized plants that have been properly cared for at the nursery will have an adequate reserve of energy producing carbohydrates in a well developed root system. This stored energy will be made available to the plant as growing conditions improve into the spring. Always consider light and watering requirements of specific plants before planting. The home gardener is then responsible for the proper installation of the plant, as well as the continued care of the newly installed plant.
   Choosing the proper planting site is important for long term healthy growth. Along the coast, we are challenged by various drainage problems. Well draining sandy soils, poorly draining low wetland areas, and the addition of various types of fill dirt prior to home construction all contribute to the complexity of soil problems. Naturally occurring sandy soils may present problems if the home gardener does not provide adequate amounts of moisture and nutrients to the soil. Heavier clay and wetland soils, which may occur naturally within close proximity to sandy soils, are even more problematic. Avoid choosing those water logged areas for all but the
"wet feet" plants. Consult a trained nurseryman for advice on these types of plants. Otherwise, install a drainage system or build up beds in those saturated locations. Another consideration is the presence of existing trees. Large trees will create shade in the area and compete with newer plant's roots for oxygen, nutrients, and water.
   The correct process for digging the plant hole is relatively simple. Construct a shallow, saucer shaped hole wider (but not deeper) than the containerized plant's existing root system. Many gardeners will follow this rule: dig the hole twice as wide, but no deeper, than the size of the container. When the excess excavated soil is returned to the hole, it will provide an adequate space for the new plant's roots to grow in to. This practice allows roots to expand horizontally into the fractured soil. Moisture, oxygen, and nutrients will move more freely through the soil, avoiding poor conditions that can be detrimental to plant health.  Correct planting depth is also critical to continued plant success. Trees and shrubs should never be planted (or mulched)) too deeply. Root and stem rot, resulting in poor plant vigor or death, is often caused by plants with too much soil or mulch around the trunk of the plant. Always look at the base of the tree/shrub trunk and determine where root flare begins. This part of the plant should be level or slightly higher before mulching, than the existing grade of the surrounding soil.
   This article should be of value to both the novice and experienced gardener, as these are common mistakes made by everyone. To summarize briefly: Select healthy plant material from a reputable nursery, install the right plant in the right place at the correct planting depth, and take advantage of the milder "pre- spring" weather to successfully install hardy trees and shrubs. By following these simple procedures, you can be assured of a high rate of plant success in your garden.
   If you have questions about proper plant choices, then come by Tropical Nursery in N.M.B. to find the right plants and professional advice for planting in the coastal region. Visit www.tropicalnurseryonline for contact information.

Successful Establishment of
        Trees and Shrubs
           By Jay Keeter

   As Mother Nature teases us with a brief "false spring" in February, our thoughts turn to our gardens. Although the return of more freezing weather is nearly a certainty, our horticultural enthusiasm begins to grow with the passing of every non-freezing evening. Since it is much too early to plant summer flowering annuals or warm weather vegetables, a coastal gardener should direct their attention to the installation of hardy trees and shrubs. These types of plants make up the backbone of the garden, and their proper location and installation is critical to a well planned garden. The increased rainfall, decrease in cold weather, and the slow and steady warming up of soil are all factors that contribute to successful planting. Take advantage of these delightful pre-spring conditions- dust off those garden tools and get out in that yard on these nice days. By observing the following rules for proper plant installation, you can successfully grow hardy trees and shrubs with a minimal amount of effort.
Camellias Welcome In
         The Spring
      By Jay Keeter
   When assessing the value of cool season plants in the home landscape, all horticulturalists agree upon the value of Camellias. If you were to determine the hierarchy of flowering shrubs, Camellia japonica should be considered the queen of the garden. Plants of this genus are frequently considered among the top southern heritage plants, appearing on home sites and plantations since the colonial period.
   Often grown as large shrubs, these plants may be maintained between 5 and 12 feet tall, depending upon variety and pruning techniques. Camellia japonicas, and related Camellia species, are a large family, consisting of over 3000 recognized varieties.  All Camellias are suitable as specimen plants in home landscapes or can be planted in mass to produce privacy screening in shadier locations. For those wishing to keep Camellias in containers for use on patios, a plant can be successfully grown in a 15 gallon pot  (approximately 17 inch wide and 15 inch deep) for many years. When space allows, Camellias of different varieties are planted together for a prolonged succession of color. An example of this: fall blooming, compact growing Camellia 'Shi Shi Gashira' may be planted forward of any taller growing Camellia japonica. This allows both staggered height in a bed and about 4 or 5 months of blooms to occur with this plant combination.
   The care of Camellia japonica is very simple. One important cultural practice involves drainage. Do not plant in an area that holds water. Camellias do not like "wet feet". You may need to build beds up slightly to improve drainage, or choose a location that drains well. Equally important is proper planting depth. Locate the top of the root flare (bottom of trunk & top of roots)in the container, then sit the intact root ball into the hole with root flare an inch or so higher than the existing grade. Never plant Camellias too deep in the ground. Partial shade is beneficial for good growth, but there are many well established Camellias that can be viewed basking in the full sun. Apparently these older plants are mature enough to have roots shaded by the leaves of their own canopy. A light mulch (2 inches) of organic material such as pine straw or a shredded wood product moderates soil temperatures in a positive manner. Pruning is minimal, only to maintain desired shape. Blooms begin to develop on stem tips in late June. Pruning after that time removes the next season's flowers. Once established (after 3 years), Camellias are very drought tolerant and able to survive normal weather patterns with no additional watering.
   Flowers are born in abundance in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. No garden will ever show off every Camellia flower grown since the number of varieties is so massive and new hybrids are always being developed. The lighter colored flowers bring life to shady gardens. Camellias such as 'Thompsonii' (light pink/red variegated), 'Purity' (white), 'Bernice Beauty' (bold pink), and 'Nuccios Cameo' (pale pink) all show up well in those dark, shady areas of the home landscape. Equally impressive in sunnier areas are flowers in red shades such as Christmas Beauty and Romany. One recent introduction has achieved the long sought after color of yellow in a Camellia bloom. The flower of 'Jurys Yellow' has a light yellow center which fades to nearly white along the outer edge of the bloom. Another recently introduced group of Camellias has been bred for improved cold hardiness. Developed in Chapel Hill, N.C. by Camellia Forest Nursery, the 'April' series all have the hardier Camellia oleifera as one of the parents. A few examples of these hardier Camellias include 'April Tryst' (bright red), 'April Kiss' (rosy red), and 'April Dawn' (peppermint striped red/pink).
   Gardeners in the coastal region who are without Camellias are missing out on one of the showiest and easiest to grow, evergreen flowering shrubs available. We suggest buying them budded or in bloom to fully enjoy the rich addition that Camellias can give to your garden.
    If you are a gardener wanting to really kick up the color in your garden, then stop by Tropical Nursery in N.M.B. to view blooming Camellias. Our experienced and well trained staff will be glad to help with all your gardening needs.

Weed Free Lawns Begin   
   With Pre-Emergent
                    By Jay Keeter
   Home gardeners and lawn care operators both share a common goal- to provide a healthy, weed free lawn that is the envy of the neighborhood. Digging out and pulling weeds by hand is labor intensive, inefficient, and not very much fun. The success of weed spraying once the weeds have appeared is mixed, depending upon factors such as temperature, correct product selection, and persistence of the applicator. However, there is a simple chemical procedure that can be performed before the weeds begin to sprout that is relatively inexpensive and extremely effective. The use of a pre-emergent herbicide, typically applied as a granular product, can save you time and money by preventing those pesky weeds from ever sprouting.
   Any gardener intent on producing a near perfect lawn should know the difference between pre-emergent and post emergent herbicides. Simply stated, pre-emergent herbicides stop seeds from sprouting. Therefore, to be effective, a pre-emergent herbicide must be applied before climatic conditions initiate seed germination. Post emergent herbicides are sprayed on existing weeds after they appear in your lawn. When used together, pre-emergent and post emergent herbicides provide the one/two punch that knocks out weeds. Timing is critical for success with pre-emergent herbicides since they do not eliminate weeds that have already sprouted. You need to know when your targeted weed seeds germinate, and apply the product prior to that time. This will depend on where you live in the country, but generally the application should be made between late February and the first of April. The further south you live, the earlier you should apply a pre-emergent herbicide. In the coastal region of South Carolina, pre-emergent herbicides are usually applied during the first few weeks of March. If you are a homeowner or lawn care operator along the Grand Strand, now is the correct time for this procedure.
   Some weeds that are present now, including the appearance of cool season species such as common Poa annua, could have been prevented by an application of pre-emergent herbicide in the fall. If you are currently overrun by Poa annua, don't despair. Be patient, as this common form of blue grass will die when hot weather arrives. Some broadleaf and grassy weeds that have a perennial root stock may not be controlled by pre-emergent herbicides since they re-sprout from the existing root structure rather than from seed. However, the presence of weeds such as Goosegrass, Crabgrass, and many other weeds can be limited by preventing new seeds from becoming established plants.
   Three factors should be considered as critical for successful control of undesirable vegetation. First, know the type of turf that exists in your yard. Next, determine the type of weeds you need to control. Finally, apply the correct the appropriate product at the correct time. Read the instructions carefully, make sure the product is labeled for the turf you are treating. Often the active ingredient is combined within a no nitrogen and no phosphorous fertilizer. High amounts of these two elements applied to centipede lawns before April can be detrimental to your lawn. That is the reason many "Weed and Feed" products containing weed preventers should not be applied at this time. Application of pre-emergent herbicides and lawn fertilizer should be made separately about  4 to 6 weeks apart, not all at once as a is the case with  "Weed and Feed" products. Many acceptable pre-emergents are on the market, typically labeled as
0-0-9 with Pendimethalin. Then follow up with Carolina Coast Centipede fertilizer in April.  
   Another factor in successful weed control is the health status of your existing lawn. Turf that is in good condition can assist the effectiveness of pre-emergent herbicides. Anything that is damaging to turf opens up the canopy formed by dense grass blades and can lead to weed growth. Poor drainage, incorrect cultural and chemical practices, shade, winter kill, and disease may be injurious to your lawn. Weeds pop up in abundance where the turf is not healthy. Healthy turf grasses that are competitive against weeds tend to produce lawns with less weed pressure than unhealthy turf.
   To develop a healthy weed free lawn, you should closely follow a chemical program specifically developed for the turf in your region. If you have more specific questions or wish to purchase the correct pre-emergent herbicide for your lawn, come by Tropical Nursery in N.M.B. If you are not a "do it yourself" person, our certified pesticide applicator will come to your yard and perform the correct chemical application at the correct time.Visit us on line at www.tropicalnurseryonline .com.

Six Steps to a Beautiful
    Centipede Lawn
       By Jay Keeter
   Centipede grass is the most commonly installed lawn grass in our area, and with good reason. Easily maintained, even considered the "lazy man's" grass, centipede lawns are best for most homeowners along the Grand Strand. The few specific problems associated with centipede lawns are easily avoided by practicing proper cultural techniques and applying the appropriate chemicals at the right time. Your centipede lawn should receive at least ½ day of sunlight, lack excessive foot traffic, and not have to compete with the roots of existing trees. If those conditions have been met, then the continued care of your lawn can be as simple as following these 6 easy steps.
   Step 1- The use of a pre-emergent herbicide will prevent the sprouting of many weed seeds when applied prior to their germination. In this case, timing of the application is critical. The product must be applied before those pesky weed seeds begin to appear. This product will not eliminate perennial weeds returning from last year's hardy root stock. Since pre-emergent herbicides (such as Pendimethalin) are not selective herbicides, they will also stop desirable seeds from sprouting. Therefore, do not use this type of product if you intend to overseed your yard with a desirable type of lawn seed.
To be the most effective, the 1st application of the year should be made between mid-February and the end of March.
   Step 2- The need for insect control varies from year to year and from yard to yard. This can be explained by natural phenomena, such as the effect weather conditions have on insect populations, as well as the cultural practices of your neighbors. Although you cannot control the weather, perhaps you can persuade your neighbors to participate in the control of common insects such as fire ants and mole crickets. Superior control of these insects involves neighbors working together, since the insects will move from yard to yard. There are numerous products on the market, and repeat applications should be made as needed with different insecticides in order to reduce the tolerance to a specific insecticide by lawn insects. Many newcomers to the area may not be familiar with mole crickets and fire ants (as well as mosquitoes and termites), since these pests may not have existed in locations further north. All I can say about that is "Welcome to the South".
   Step 3- Improper fertilization of centipede grass is a major cause of poor performance. We tend to think that if a little fertilizer is good, then more will be better. Not so ! Centipede grass is very sensitive to excessive nitrogen and phosphorous, which appear as the first 2 numbers on the description of all fertilizers. Many national brands, commonly sold at big box stores, contain up to 3 times the recommended amount of nitrogen for centipede lawns in our area. The county extension agent, who is a reliable resource person for home gardeners, usually recommends an analysis of 5-5-15 or 8-0-15, depending upon local conditions. Often homeowners mistakenly treat spring dieback in their yard as a fungal problem, when it is directly linked to too much nitrogen and phosphorous applied too early in the year. During most years, an application of centipede lawn fertilizer should be made in early April, and then again in late July .
   Step 4- A good rule of thumb in regard to correct watering is to apply 1 inch per week during the growing season. The best way to check this is to set out several shallow pie pans at various places in your lawn. Monitor the depth of water in these pans on several occasions after your sprinklers have run their normal cycle. Measure the depth of water in the pan, and set your irrigation timer to apply water appropriately. If you have about 1/3 inch of water in the pan, then you should apply that amount 3 times per week (or about every other day). Not all sprinkler systems are installed to provide matched precipitation from zone to zone, so be sure to measure the amount of water dispersed within each zone.
   Step 5- Once again, I will refer to centipede as being the lazy man's lawn. This time it is in reference to mowing. Mowing height with centipede is not as critical as with other grasses. Maintain the height around 2 inches, and avoid cutting down more than 1/3 of the blade height at any single mowing. Your grass will be healthier and choke out weeds better if you choose to maintain taller grass, rather than mowing too short too often.
   Step 6- Of course, keeping your lawn thick and healthy is the preferred method of weed control. Allowing a strong stand of grass to exist eliminates many opportunities for weeds to creep into your lawn. If post emergent herbicides (which kill troublesome weeds that are apparent in the lawn) must be used, then follow the directions carefully to avoid damage to your desirable turf. Many products, such as Trimec Sougthern, Weed Be Gone, Atrazine, and Image, are available. These products work best in warmer weather. The warmer weather, and most of the worst weeds, usually arrive after the correct time to apply your lawn fertilizer. It is for this reason that your fertilizer and weed control products should be applied separately- not at the same time. If you are using a weed and feed fertilizer, then one of the 2 main parts of the fertilizer are being applied inefficiently. Most professional lawn care operators will apply the fertilizer and the weeding product about a month or so apart for best results.
   So tune up that lawn mower, replace old worn out mower blades, follow the directions in this article, and begin the process of creating a lawn that will be envied by your neighbors. Keeping a healthy centipede lawn is not too complicated for most homeowners, and can be achieved with minimum effort when using the correct products.
   Stop in at Tropical Nursery for the correct chemicals for your yard, and the right advice on how to correctly maintain your entire home garden. If unable to maintain your lawn, inquire about our professional lawn service, administered by our S.C. certified pesticide applicator. Routine grounds services are available seasonally or year round at reasonable prices.

Native Plants for the Home
          by Jay Keeter

   The presence of specific plants can define a region. We often associate the coastal region with the presence of Sabal palmetto palm trees. Lowland plantations had long rows of mighty Live Oaks, some of which still stand today. Southerners have long associated the arrival of Easter with the blooms of our native Dogwoods. Many of our native plants are a bit eccentric, such as the Fly Traps and Pitcher Plants which engorge themselves on small insects. Others, such as Longleaf Pine, live long drab lives, almost designated as a nuisance were it not for the nesting of endangered woodpeckers. Our local soils host a huge variety of native plants, and many of them are adaptable and desirable in the landscape.
   A discussion of native plants for the local landscape along the coastal region should start with Wax Myrtle. The Wax Myrtle is useful as a screen plant, informal hedge, or specimen, but may be best known as the origin of the city's name, Myrtle Beach. Named by Anna Huntington (of Brookgreen Garden fame), Myrtle Beach is the namesake of our local Wax Myrtle, and both the city and plant has flourished. This plant should not be confused with Crape Myrtle, even though they partially share a name. The foliage of Wax Myrtle is pleasantly aromatic, and the growth habit rarely exceeds 20 feet with multiple trunks. A small blue fruit appears on female plants and is a favorite food for birds. The fruits are heavily covered with wax and have been used in candle making since colonial days. Dwarf varieties are now available which may never exceed 8 feet tall.
   You will often find Yellow Jessamine rambling among the Wax Myrtles and other local trees. Always stretching for the sunlight, the vine meanders throughout our woodlands with showy yellow flowers in early spring. When grown on a trellis, the pendulous growth will cascade and sway with the wind. Since it is our state flower, Yellow Jessamine may also be referred to as Carolina Jessamine. This vine can be seen through most of our state on fences, walls, mailboxes, and trellises. Yellow Jessamine may also be used effectively as a vigorous groundcover, especially on large banks. In addition to its form and flower, the salt, drought, and deer tolerance exhibited by this plant makes it very desirable in the landscape.
   The southeast is fortunate to be home to many types of native azaleas. Naked of leaves in the winter, the profuse display of fragrant flowers arrives as a surprise at about the same time leaves appear. Two of these indigenous beauties that perform particularly well from the Piedmont to the coast are Florida Flame and Pinxter. Florida Flame is slightly more tolerant of heat and drought, while Pinxter is frequently found along cool stream beds. Both varieties are easily grown with a little shade, but may adapt to more light once established. Florida Flame's blooms appear in vibrant shades of yellow, gold, or orange and the blooms on Pinxter are pink with a little white. The flowers of both varieties are extremely fragrant, and often compared to the smell of honeysuckle. When planted in small groves under the canopy of larger trees, native azaleas will provide both brilliant spring color and an intoxicating fragrance.
   Eastern Redbud appears throughout the state, both in full sun and shade. Where trees are well established, small lavender to pink blooms are born in abundance on bare trunks, twigs, and branches prior to the emergence of heart shaped leaves. Most plant catalogs describe Redbud as a compact tree, commonly maintained at a height around 15 to 20 feet. In the wild, Redbud often occurs as an understory tree, beneath the canopy of larger trees. One of the showery varieties, named Forest Pansy, produces beautiful new purple foliage early in the season, but needs some shade in hot climates to maintain good foliage appearance during the summer.
   Sweet Bay Magnolia may be the perfect tree for moist soils. Much smaller than its relative, Magnolia grandiflora, Sweet Bay is a good fit in smaller yards. Both of these varieties of native Magnolias produce lemon scented white flowers in spring/early summer. They seldom have any significant pest problems and are very easy for most homeowners to grow. Established Magnolias resent being transplanted, so pick out the correct location for initial installation. Larger growing Southern Magnolias are usually planted as a single specimen, or as a very large privacy hedge. Sweet Bay is attractive as a single specimen or as a cluster of plants. When multiple Sweet Bay plants are installed in an area, their silver backed leaves will show off well when twisted by the wind and the 3 inch flowers will produce a noticeably delightful fragrance.
   The request for native plants in home landscape design is becoming more common now than in the past. This is with good reason. Most will easily adapt to the local region, grow with little maintenance, resist most local pests (including deer), and provide the homeowner with years of satisfactory performance. Make room in your home landscape for some of these wonderful treasures that Mather Nature has enriched our lives with for hundreds of years.
   Tropical Nursery stocks native plants, and our experienced staff will assist homeowners with making the best plant choices. Stop by 801 25th Ave. S. in N.M.B, or visit our website at www.

   When designing home landscapes, we often emphasize the importance of color at the entrance to a home, within established beds of green shrubbery, and on patios and decks in containers. This is simple to achieve with the use of a wide variety of lesser known plants, but the dwarfed tropical hibiscus is near the top of the list. The growth of these plants is chemically stunted, but each bloom is full size, flowering from now until around Thanksgiving. For nearly 8 months of the year, coastal gardeners can enjoy the big, beautiful flowers of dwarfed hibiscus. Selection of colors is almost unlimited. New introductions sport blooms in red, yellow, orange, white, peach, and pink. In our opinion, very few other annual plants can compare in beauty to dwarfed hibiscus.
   Another often overlooked bloomer is a native to the warmer parts of the coastal southeast. Beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis), should not be confused with taller growing types of sunflowers. Beach sunflower cascades over the ground at a height rarely exceeding 2 feet tall, and constantly covers itself with 2-3 inch flowers which resemble yellow daisies. Vigorous in its growth, a single beach sunflower may spread several feet wide in a single growing season. No problems with this plant in the heat. The hotter the weather gets, the better it likes it. These plants are inexpensive and fast growing, proving very satisfactory in the home garden. Other qualities include a high tolerance to drought, neglect, and salt spray. An excellent example of Helianthus debilis can be seen in the landscape of the Low Country Center at Brookgreen Gardens.
   Are you looking for a lot of bang for your buck? Then you should consider the use of firecracker plant. The vibrant orange/red blooms hover above dense, arching bright green needle-like foliage. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers, and hummingbirds cannot resist the tubular blooms. The pendulous growth habit appears as a mound on the ground, and is ideal for window boxes and hanging baskets as well. 
   Abutilon hybrids, with drooping blooms resembling Chinese lanterns, grow a little larger than the previously mentioned plants, making it impressive from both near and afar. Often growing up to 3 feet tall, these hybrids are also easily spotted by butterflies and hummingbirds. Although sometimes listed as a tender perennial (hardy to around 25 degrees), we prefer to be on the safe side and sell it as an annual plant. The maple shaped leaves and lantern like blooms have earned this plant two different common names. Abutilon is sometimes referred to as Parlor Maple or Chinese Lantern.
   Don't stay stuck in the same plant rut this year. Switching to these exciting varieties could make your garden the envy of the neighborhood. And after all, isn't that what it is really all about to the creative gardener?
   You can find these and other exciting plants at Tropical Nursery , 801 25th ave s.  in North Myrtle Beach. Come by and let our knowledgeable staff help you with your warm season garden. Visit for contact onfo.

Spring Planting- Think Out
         Of The Box
        by Jay Keeter

   Over the past few years, a few varieties of summer blooming plants have become the backbone of the warm season garden. Often these plants are heavily promoted by word of mouth from friend to friend.
However, among some of the more creative gardeners there is always the quest to produce a landscape unlike all the neighbor's gardens. These home horticulturalists search for the unique, and are often pioneers in the use of valuable, but not necessarily mainstream plants. If this is your gardening desire, then now is the time to think out of the box. This year, forget about the marigolds, geraniums, vinca, and impatiens. After all, this isn't your granny's garden. Your opportunity to break the old planting cycle has arrived this spring, and you only need to read further for information on a few of our favorite alternatives.
   Agave cacti consist of many varieties, some of which are winter hardy in almost all of the southeastern and southwestern United States. Other varieties should be grown only in more tropical areas, due to their sensitivity to the cold. Bold texture, foliage color and shape, rapid rate of reproduction, and xeric (drought tolerance) qualities make it appropriate for coastal gardens, low maintenance yards, and southwestern/Spanish style landscapes. International plant collectors are introducing new cultivars to the public at a slow but constant rate, and the popularity of Agave cacti among plant enthusiasts seems limitless. The following information may increase the reader's desire to place one or more of these spectacular plants within their home garden.
   Agave Americana make up the majority of the plants seen in landscapes at this time. These coarse textured, blue leaved succulents have commonly been called 'Century Plants'. This name is due to the incorrect assumption that they take 100 years to bloom. Not true- blooms often occur within the first 35 years or so. The impressive bloom stalk may reach 35 feet tall with small whitish flowers. All Agave cacti die after flowering, but most varieties will produce many, perhaps hundreds, of new plants at their base while growing. Plan ahead when selecting the planting site, as Agave Americana may reach 6 feet tall and equally wide.
   Agave parryii truncate is at the opposite end of the growth chart. This is one of the best smaller growing types of Agave. Frequently referred to as the Hardy Century Plant, this variety will grow well in the cooler regions of the south. Listed as cold hardy into zone 6, which is most of the Carolinas and Virginia, Agave parryii truncate may be the most cold tolerant species available. Rarely exceeding 2 feet tall, these plants are easier to use in the smaller home garden. One cultivar of agave parrasana, referred to as 'Meat Claw', has a ball-like growth habit full of spines which re-curve back onto itself, The structure of this plant is very interesting in both pots and in the ground.
   Agave salmiana, growing quickly to 4 or 5 feet, is also very hardy. Established plants that have been damaged by near zero temperatures have recovered well within the next growing season. Agave salmiana quickly and constantly produces offsets around its base as it grows, producing enough plants to share with neighbors.
   Agave lophantha, whose lack of availability makes it a real prize among Agave collectors, may reach only 3 feet tall at maturity. Eventually colonizing to form hemispherical clumps, the deep green leaves with lighter yellow stripes down the middle have marginal spines. Although it is perfectly hardy along the coast, this variety will benefit from some winter protection if planted in the inland areas. The variegated foliage and round growth habit make this a truly outstanding addition to any garden.
   Agave geminofolia lacks spurs along the leaf margin, has thin leaves, and forms a dense, compact rosette as it grows. Agave geminofolia 'Rasta Man' is very popular and more available now than in the past. Hardy to about 25 degrees, this variety is great for containers, where it can be moved inside on those colder nights. The abundance of thin leaves produces a less coarse appearance which blends well with other plants in containers.
   All Agave cacti are deer resistant, salt tolerant, and thrive on neglect. Proper cultural practice involves locating plants in sunny areas with excellent drainage. If your soil stays wet, then build beds up with sandy fill dirt and plant with a west to southwest facing location. For those folks out there who say they cannot grow anything in their yard, this may be the plant for you.
   Tropical Nursery has a wide selection of Agave cacti in several sizes. Stop by our shop at 801 25th ave. S . in North Myrtle Beach to add this exciting plant to your landscape or patio pot.

Agave Cactus Make A
     Bold Statement
                By Jay Keeter

   Long appreciated by Native American cultures for its value as a source of textile fiber, Agave cacti have been a staple part of the American landscape for centuries. The use of the sinuous, threadlike fiber within the plant is only one of the practical applications of the Agave cactus over time. When combined with the needle-like spine at the end of each leaf (which is more like a modified stem), you have both needle and thread. Many people have experienced, for better or worse, the effects of a liquor distilled from the pulp. Tequila is created from the plant, and many farmers south of the border have cultivated large crops for this purpose. More recently, a sugary product, marketed as Agave nectar, has become a sensation at health food stores and supermarkets. Along the coastal region, the primary use of the Agave cactus has been in the home landscape.

   Let's start with blooming shrubs that produce impressive blooms in late winter and spring. The 3 most common types of plants that fall into this category are azaleas, camellias, and hydrangeas. These plants should be pruned soon after blooming, even pruned severely at this time if needed. The next year's blooms will appear on growth produced around mid-summer. This means you should not only prune just after flowers fade, but that your pruning should never be performed after the middle of June. Some gardeners incorrectly believe that everything should be pruned in the fall. When customers ask why they have no blooms on their azaleas, camellias, and hydrangeas, then I always inquire about past pruning. The majority of these frustrated gardeners reluctantly admit to heavy fall or winter pruning, which results in only new vegetative growth and no blooms in the spring.
   There are a many plants that have visually insignificant flowers and are grown only for the appearance of their foliage. Often these plants are used for privacy screening, basic foundation plantings, or as specimen plants with distinct shapes. Boxwood, ligustrum, Leyland cypress, arborvita, and eleagnus are just some of the plants within this category. These can be pruned at almost any time. However, pruning these plants late in the fall is incorrect. This would result in no growth or tender growth prone to cold damage during the winter. When pruned just before the cooler weather arrives, these shrubs will appear stemmy and leafless until the new growth breaks out in the spring.
   If you want a beautiful display of berries in the winter on your holly, pyracantha and nandina, then do not prune off the growth that currently supports their small blooms. These blooms, often small and easily overlooked, will develop into the bright berries that are valued by both gardeners and birds. Although ink berry and yaupon do not sport the typical pointed leaves we associate with hollies, they are actually in the same genus. With all types of hollies, incorrect pruning will result in no berries.
   All brown growth on any palm should be removed at this time. Brown leaves on palms will not turn green again. New growth should appear at the growing point at the top of the palm when the night temperatures consistently remain above the mid-60's. If a cold damaged palm does not sprout back during the summer, then you may need to consider a replacement plant. Caution: some retailers are marketing palms that are not winter hardy here, without informing customers of that fact. You should consult a professional nurseryman  before purchasing these palms.
   Finally, if you were negligent about winter pruning of roses, chaste tree, or crape myrtles, then you should get out there now and do this pruning. Although it is a little past the perfect time to do this work, these three plants are very forgiving. The increased branching after the pruning will lead to a more desirable shape and more blooms later in the season.
   Just as there is a proper time to plant and to harvest, there is also a proper time to prune. There is not a single pruning technique that is correct for all shrubbery and trees, therefore there is room for error. Becoming a better informed gardener (or hiring someone who is) is the best way to prevent pruning mistakes.
   Questions about proper pruning can be answered at Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. South in N.M.B.  Come by or visit our website at  

Extend Your Green Space Onto The Patio
                      By Jay Keeter

   Are you limited in space in  your garden, or do you simply lack the enthusiasm required for larger scale gardening? Both the demand on one's time and the lack of space may contribute to the recent surge of homeowners embracing container gardening. Anyone can find the space for a window box or cluster of pots on the patio. The care of these smaller garden projects is very simple and requires only a minimal amount of time and horticultural knowledge.
   Unless you intend to install a bog garden, then you should always start with containers that allow thorough drainage. The potting media should be able to retain adequate moisture, yet dry out between watering. Soils should not stay constantly wet. With only a restricted area for root development, the fertility of your potting media is critical for good plant growth. Although those blue, liquid soluble fertilizers work well, their influence will only last a few weeks, making repeat applications at regular intervals necessary. Slow release fertilizers relieve the gardener of having to make frequent applications. When it comes to both potting soils and fertilizers, you generally get what you pay for. The initial investment in top quality agricultural products produces benefits that outweigh the cost.
   When potting up window boxes, most home horticulturalists want colorful plants cascading softly over the container's edge. Often, automated irrigation systems do not apply water to window boxes, making drought tolerance a practical consideration in plant selection.

Spring Shrub Pruning Tips
        By Jay Keeter

   Are you so excited about the arrival of spring that you want to go out and do anything and everything in the garden now? There are many appropriate gardening tasks that should be performed now, but there are also many tasks that should be avoided. Perhaps the common mistakes made by enthusiastic, but untrained, gardeners involves pruning. Every spring we have several wives arrive at the nursery who are so frustrated with their husband's pruning that they seem to be on the brink of divorce. Husbands are not the only ones to blame. There are also a number of misinformed landscapers going from yard to yard and making the same pruning mistakes at each job. The information in this article may help save your marriage, or at least save the appearance of your yard.

Purslane has a growth habit that is creeping and pendulous and the plants thrive in hot, dry weather. The 2 inch flowers are available in a range of bright neon colors that adorn the plant until cooler weather arrives. Firecracker plants are nearly constant bloomers with small trumpet shaped flowers that are irresistible to hummingbirds. What a treat to view those hummers from inside your home as they flutter around your window box! During a single growing season the Firecracker plant will produce arching branches that cascade over the rim of your window box by several feet. If you are looking for that "one of a kind" bloom, then Dwarf Chenille plant will be right for you. These plants are topped by semi-erect 4 to 6 inch long fuzzy red blooms resembling giant caterpillars. I know of no other plant with similar blooms. Dwarf Chenille has small serrated leaves that create an overall fine textured plant with a graceful, flowing growth habit.
   Containers on a patio effectively extend one's green space where previously there was none. The purpose of containerized plants varies from one homeowner to the next. Often, the most utilitarian gardeners simply want to install herb or vegetable plants in pots for the delights of a healthy, homegrown harvest. Bush tomato, lettuce, eggplant, and pepper are all commonly grown veggies in containers. Various herbs, such as basil, rosemary, chives, and mint can be successfully combined in larger containers. Other patio gardeners wish to indulge themselves within a tropical paradise. The use of bamboos, palms, gingers, and banana trees are used to achieve this effect. Still others strive for constant color. No other plant will outbloom dwarfed hibiscus, and their compact growth habit is an advantage when used in combination plantings. When planting large ornamental combination pots, plants are often installed in groups of three plants per pot. For the best appearance, one plant should be upright, providing a vertical accent. Another plant should be spreading and pendulous, and the third plant should fill the space in between the other 2 plants. Combining cascading torenia or bacopa, taller bush petunia, and dwarfed hibiscus is an example of this design principle.                  
   In some instances, less is better. When using                                                          topiary plants or bonsai plants with unique character, do not use other showy plants nearby that could distract one's attention from the specimen plant.
   If you have a severe case of spring fever, but only a small space or patio for your garden, then the cure may be the use of containerized plants or window boxes. This style of gardening is successful and rewarding with only a minimum amount of space and a minimum amount of care.
   Do you need more help with your plant choices for containers? Come by Tropical Nursery  in North Myrtle Beach for a great selection of plants that work well in this area. Visit our web site for more informative articles on plants .

The Patriotic Gardener
                    By Jay Keeter

   Events of the past few weeks have renewed feelings of patriotism among all Americans. The death of Osama Bin Laden may be considered a pivotal point in the war on terror and U.S. citizens have embraced the occasion. One way that gardeners can express their support for our nation is by planting a color-themed garden in red, white, and blue. The display of the American flag within the home landscape can further emphasize the pride we take in our great nation.
   Proper flag etiquette should be observed when displaying "Old Glory" in any location. This topic gives me a chance to compliment the efforts of the Boy Scouts of America in their programs regarding the correct use of the flag. This is one of the few non-government organizations that routinely instructs youth on American values, work ethic, and the importance of maintaining a healthy environment. All three of these issues are reflected in a well maintained patriotic garden. In this type of garden, the central focal point is often the American flag. Unfortunately, our flag is frequently displayed incorrectly. If you are unsure of the appropriate way to display a flag, then you may gain insight from reading further in this article.
   The correct display of our flag demands that you follow a few simple rules. In inclement weather, the flag should be brought inside. If you leave your flag up at night, there should be a light providing illumination upon it. When displaying several different flags in the same area, the American flag should be in a superior position in the arrangement of flags. This is a consideration when the American flag is flown with several flags on the same pole or within a group of several flag poles. Two thoughts enter my mind when I see an old, tattered flag still being used in any location. First, I am sure there is a proud American citizen involved and, second, my compliments are extended to that person for their display of patriotism. Cost may be a factor in many of these cases. If you are an Armed Forces veteran on a fixed income and cannot afford a new flag - then contact us at Tropical Nursery and we will assist you in the purchase of a new flag. It is improper to discard old flags in the trash. One great way to retire a tattered flag is to donate it to a Boy Scout Troop. They can properly and ceremoniously dispose of the flag for you.
   To further emphasize the colors of our flag, use red, white, and blue flowers in the patriotic garden. This combination of flowers not only reflects your love of country, but also provides bright hues that really pop out when nestled among other plants with green foliage. One popular combination that withstands our summer heat and humidity is white lantana, blue daze evolvulus, and red hibiscus. In shady areas, using red & white impatiens with blue torenia is equally impressive. If you are limited in space, blue dwarf ruellia, compact red pentas, and white vinca are attractive together in the ground or in containers. Go to your local nursery and look for other plant combinations that do well in your area.
   Themed gardens may exist in any size. A personal expression of patriotism may be as simple as a few pots of red, white, and blue flowers on your patio, topped with a small American flag. More spacious landscapes may incorporate entire beds of color used to complement the flag in more obvious ways. Any home gardener, regardless of their political ideals, can create a landscape that expresses their love of country that will be aesthetically pleasing as well. After all, the right to express our love of country is one of the many freedoms that make America great.
   Do you need assistance designing your patriotic garden? Come by Tropical Nursery in North Myrtle Beach for a great selection of plants that work well in this area. Be sure to visit our web site for additional informative plant articles.  

   Leading the way for several years now is the series of roses marketed as 'Knock Out' roses. These easily grown plants are disease resistant and bloom heavily from spring until early winter in our moderate coastal climate. Several varieties of 'Knock Out' roses have been developed over the past few years, but the earliest introductions are the best performers. These plants, referred to as 'Knock Out Red', 'Knock Out Double Red', and 'Knock Out Pink' are readily available at all retail outlets. Other introductions have followed in shades of yellow and coral pink, but seem to be less floriferous. All varieties are self dead heading. This means that re-bloom is not dependent upon the tedious task of removing spent blooms. After many years of frustration by rose gardeners who quickly tired of constantly spraying their old varieties of roses, these disease resistant roses have brought new life to the rose industry.
   Not wanting to be left behind, other plant producers have begun programs to develop a product to compete with the 'Knock Out' series. Week's Rose nursery has two excellent choices currently on the market. Rosa 'Julia Childs' is a must for the serious rose gardener. Easily grown, disease and deer resistant, compact in its growth habit & long standing bloom color are all fine qualities of this rose. Two additional assets, which are not possessed by the  'Knock Out' roses, are the ability to be brought inside as long lasting cut flowers, and an outstanding fragrance. Upon smelling this flower, many gardeners comment that the fragrance reminds them of the roses of their grandmother's garden. Another Week's Rose selection is simply entitled 'Easy Does It'. The name says it all! The care for this beauty is very minimal, and the unusual color really makes this plant stand out in the landscape. The mango/apricot coloring will bring excitement to any dull area of your yard. Unlike the 'Knock Out' roses, both of these Week's Roses introductions will bloom better if old blooms are removed as they decline.
   Several Proven Winners roses (often promoted on television by horticulturalist P. Allen Smith) have hit the market during the past few years. Some, such as 'Paprika' and 'Strawberry Crush' are worthy of use in the landscape. Others hardly compare to the Week's Rose introductions or the 'Knock Out' series. As a little more time goes by, look for better roses to continue to enter the market from these companies.
   Although often overlooked, the antique roses that dominated colonial gardens are just as disease resistant as the newer introductions. Three of my favorites are still on the market, but sometimes difficult to find. Rosa mutabilis has a simple flower form, but very interesting color. The buds are copper, and then the flower opens yellow and morph to pink before dropping. It is commonly referred to as the Butterfly Rose, as its simple flowers swirl in the wind in a manner that resembles hovering butterflies. Rosa 'Louis Phillip' has a full bodied bloom resembling a dark red carnation and the fragrance is that of cinnamon. Rosa 'Bermuda Spice' also produces a very full bloom, varying from pale pink in spring and fall, to nearly white during the sunnier days of summer. If you are growing roses for their fragrance, then this is a must have. Many of these antique roses have been referenced to George Washington's home (Mount Vernon) and the gardens of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) in colonial garden journals. Planting these antique roses not only brings you immediate pleasure, but also establishes a connection with historic gardens of America.
   For you gardeners who have shunned roses due to their intense maintenance requirements, you now have no excuse for omitting roses from your garden. Look for a sunny spot with good drainage, water occasionally, then stand back and enjoy the bounty of blooms from these easily grown garden specimens.
    If you are interested in these and other low maintenance roses, then come by Tropical Nursery at 801 25th av. s. in N.M.B. We are open 10-5 except Sunday.

War Of The Roses
   by Jay Keeter

   Despite the title, this article is not about the historical British "War of the Roses". In that war of the mid-1400's, the house of York (represented by the white rose) and the house of Lancaster (represented by the red rose) engaged in battle for more than a decade. This new war of the roses is between competing nurseries for the development of low maintenance roses that even the most unskilled gardener can grow successfully.

Create An Outdoor Garden Room
          By Jay Keeter

   Would you live in a home with no walls? No, of course you would not. Within the exterior walls of our homes we create a feeling of security and privacy. Additionally, the interior walls provide places for dining, resting, socializing, and entertaining. Landscapes can be created for similar effects. This garden theme is certainly not a new idea. Ancient garden rooms have existed since Biblical times and before. The famous hanging gardens of Babylon are an early example of this style of landscape design. Victorian gardens often contained nooks within the larger garden space. These nooks were defined by vegetative walls, vine draped arbors for ceilings, and simple pathways for floors. As children, we may have read The Secret Garden as an indulgence in fantasy. Today, garden rooms may provide a place for entertaining, relaxation, or as a comfortable sanctuary that connects us with nature. If you possess skills in basic landscape construction procedures, then a gazebo, pergola, or arbor may be an easy addition to your landscape. These types of construction enhance the effect of a garden room. Simple lattice and post walls can be used to bolster the level of privacy. More complex garden rooms may involve a hot tub, outdoor speakers, water feature, or a fire pit. An outdoor table with a large overhead umbrella on a small patio of pavers, when surrounded by sufficient vegetation, becomes a private place to sip your morning coffee while reading a favorite book.
   Often, at larger home sites, meandering paths may connect multiple outdoor rooms. One space could be open to viewing nature, while another space may be designed for entertaining friends, and yet another area may be developed to insulate you from neighbors. By carefully combining the proper plants, you can create a permanent reflection of a past tropical vacation. Imagine a Jamaican style courtyard just outside your back door. Using hardy tropical plants such as palms, ginger lilies, and banana trees will put you in that vacation state of mind.
   Many of today's homes are built close together and available garden space is often long and narrow, rather than wide and rambling. You may easily transform these narrow areas into a unique garden room. Choose plants that grow more upward and less wide and install them closely along a pathway, creating an allee (a tree lined walkway).  Clumping multiplex bamboo, Allee elm, Japanese Yew, and columnar junipers are good plant choices, depending upon the space involved. The tree roots and shade created by the plants may make a lawn impossible to grow, so the path should be created from mulch, small rock, pavers, or stepping stones. Designate the entry point of your allee with an arch, arbor, or an inviting display of brightly flowering plants in large containers. A straight arrangement of plants along the path may direct your view directly to an obvious bench, swing, or hammock; whereas, a slight twist at the end of the path could lead to a more private relaxation area.
   If you have only a small patio area, then use vegetative or hardscape walls to create privacy. Then select plants that are of interest when viewed close up. The texture, fragrance, and seasonal color of these plants should be considered when making plant choices. Where the size of your garden room is severely limited by pavement  and permanent walls, use containers of different sizes at various levels. Elevating a planted container on a pedestal, overturned pot, table, or tree stump will add an extra dimension to small, flat patio areas. Arrange pots in odd-numbered groups to create a flowing pattern. Wall hugging vines and hanging baskets will further enhance the desired appearance.
   Before beginning this type of outdoor project, the homeowner should think about how they actually want to use the space. Do you want your garden room to be open to the stars, drenched in sunlight, or enveloped in cooling shade? Do you plan to entertain large crowds, or enjoy the solitude of a special place? Garden rooms can effectively create an outdoor retreat that can satisfy any homeowner's desire.

Water Requirements for
   Home Landscapes
       by Jay Keeter 

Residents of coastal regions, as well as other select locations in the Carolinas, are currently in a mini-drought. Although rainfall during the earliest portion of the year was sufficient, the last month has been very dry, with only minimal rainfall in the area. This is not atypical of other years, when our water table is replenished by rain in late winter and early spring. The unusual factors that have contributed to drought damage have been extremely high temperatures and consistently gusty winds. Hot temperatures cause rapid evaporation of moisture from both plant tissue and the surrounding ground. Constant afternoon winds hasten the process. The combination of all these factors results in visible plant damage. Drier areas in lawns take on a dull, grey and altered appearance. Lower leaves on shrubs & trees will turn yellow and drop off, sacrificed to compost in order for the newer growth to excel. Flower buds and fruit begin to wither prematurely. Even the Waccamaw River has declined to nearly mud puddle size in shallow areas, leaving normally water soaked roots of River Birch and Bald Cypress exposed.
   The solution is obvious- more water is needed. Rainfall from the upstate will contribute to a rise in our local river levels. Local precipitation will immediately revive most plants, but for some it may already be too late. Each individual can increase watering in their yard, but the price of municipal water may be cost prohibitive to some folks during this economically sensitive time. For those homeowners with automated irrigation systems, and gardeners who are diligent waterers using hoses and sprinklers, there is a noticeable difference in the appearance their yards. It only takes a ride through the neighborhood to tell who these people are. Their extra investment and work is easily seen by the improved appearance of their properties.
   To maintain a healthy lawn and garden, many people strive to provide one inch of total precipitation per week. An easy way to check for one inch weekly accumulation is by using inexpensive shallow pie pans with straight sides. These pans should be set around at various areas in the yard when water is normally applied. After the irrigation is complete, then use a ruler to measure the depth of accumulated water in the pan. If the water is 1/3 of an inch deep, and you are watering 3 times per week, then your plants in that area are receiving 1 inch of water per week. Repeat the process several times to insure accuracy. You should always water early or late in the day when evaporation is less rapid. Soil structure will influence the rate of water evaporation and nutrient leaching. Sandy soils may need significantly more water than clay, since the presence of water in sand diminishes quickly. However, be cautious not to keep soils constantly wet. Overwatering, as well as underwatering, is undesirable. It takes both moisture and air around roots for most plants to remain healthy.
   To revive struggling plants, more than an inch of water per week may be necessary. Depending upon plant location and soil type, you may need to adjust the amount of water applied to suit specific conditions. Even though the price of watering adequately is costly, the expense is minimal as compared to replacing your lawn and plant material. If you are interested in conserving water, then be sure to read next week's article on xeric plants. Visit for more informative articles on gardening along the coast.

Conserve Water with Xeric
               by Jay Keeter

   Xeric gardening can be defined as the use of aesthetically pleasing plants that require minimal or no supplemental watering. This type of garden appeals to the conservationists, the economically challenged gardeners, and even the laziest horticulturalists. Locally, we have been experiencing a mini-drought that has brought stress to most un-watered plants. Although a little cost prohibitive, most folks can use municipal water to supplement the lack of rainwater. Nationally, there are arguments among neighboring states over the conservation of water. Globally, there are "water wars" occurring at the expense of both national treasure and human lives. When considering both short and long term water availability, it becomes obvious why xeric landscaping is becoming very popular.
    Gardeners mistakenly think they may be limited only to cacti and succulents for this type of gardening. However, the list of xeric plant material also includes specific flowering shrubs, herbaceous plants, ornamental grasses, trees, and shrubs. Remember- it may take some watering initially to establish xeric plants, but the reward is a long term landscape with minimal water requirements.
   Often xeric trees and shrubs are also native plants to our area. Native trees frequently listed for xeric use include Redbud, Yaupon, and Live Oak. Fig trees and Loquats are appropriate if installing an edible xeric garden. Crape Myrtle is an excellent choice for summer color. Shrubbery choices include domestic and compact Nandina, Oleander, Pittosporum, Juniper, and Indian Hawthorne. One particularly well suited ornamental grass, Sweetgrass (which is also referred to as Muhly Grass), provides graceful foliage, attractive pink plumes, and is historically significant for its use in colonial basket making.
   Southern heirloom plants, including Crinum lily, Crocosmia, Coneflower, Gaillardia and Black-eye Susan provide impressive seasonal color and come back each year in abundance. Over time, you will have enough of these plants to continue the southern tradition of sharing plants with others.
   Of course, we can't overlook the plants most commonly associated with dry conditions. Hardy cacti and succulents always have a place in the xeric garden. Bulbinella is a low growing plant with succulent leaves and coppery-orange flowers that bloom from early summer until frost. Many Sedums provide summer and fall color on compact plants. The Agave cactus (Century plant) make an impressive statement in the landscape with large silvery-blue leaves radiating from a central rosette. Hardy Agave hybrids range in size from the most diminutive (only 18 inches tall) up to the larger varieties that reach over 6 feet at maturity. An interesting bloom appears after many years on Agave Cacti that may reach up to 30 feet into the air. Home brewers: Blue Agave is the source of tequila. Another old standard in many traditional gardens are various types of Opuntia cacti. Often these are called Bunny Ear cactus (due to their appearance) or Prickly Pear cactus (due to their edible fruit).
   When considering xeric plant choices, think about the overall appearance you desire, as well as the amount of time and energy you want to spend in your garden. Whether it be new plant installation or a landscape renovation, there are xeric plants available to suit your gardening needs.For  a good choice of  xeric plants, come to Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave s in NMB,SC or visit  us on Facebook to find our Special Sales Events.

Vines in the Landscape
             by Jay Keeter

   The graceful, pendulous form of softly cascading vines over an arbor or trellis can bring many attributes to your garden. They can be used for their softening effect on courtyard walls, as screening on fences or lattice forms, as vegetative canopies over porches or pergolas, or spilling out of hanging baskets and large pots. Flowering vines may add color and fragrance to your landscape. Using vines to break up the appearance of strong angular lines associated with decks and railings reduces the appearance of harsh edges. Fast growing climbers can quickly cover an unsightly chain link fence, increasing the feeling of enclosure and privacy. When trained to a sturdy arbor over a set of benches, vines can provide shade, color, and fragrance to an otherwise drab sitting area. More diminutive vines form effective ground covers. The use of vining plant material is not limited to merely decorating your mail box post.
   While vining plant material does have the ability to enhance your landscape, there is also a down side to their use. By correctly choosing the right plant for each situation, these vine pitfalls may be avoided. However, a gardener should consider plant vigor, maintenance requirements, and growth habit before plant installation. Some vines are aggressive spreaders, which if not kept under control can overtake other desirable plants or damage structures. Muscular vines may overtake young trees. Vines that produce aerial roots can destroy mortar in bricked homes, on stucco walls, and wood siding. These problems can all be avoided with proper plant selection and correct maintenance. If you are not knowledgeable of any plant's habits, then contact a professional horticulturalist for tips on putting the right plant in the right place. The following list of commonly used vines may be beneficial in your plant selections.
   English Ivy- vigorous grower will cover trees, ground, or walls while developing aerial roots; can be easily controlled with Round Up; evergreen; shade tolerant
   Confederate Jasmine- extremely fragrant; evergreen; vigorous climber (up to 50 feet +) in trees and fast screening on fences; responds well to pruning
   Passion Vine- excellent butterfly attractant with very striking form & color of flower; some species are fragrant and re-blooming; always a winner with gardeners due to ease of growth and spectacular flower
   Wisteria- strong and aggressive; use with caution; beautiful fragrant flowers in shades of blue/purple appear in the spring
   Mandavilla- tropical vine incapable of surviving our winters, but worth planting each year; bright red, white or pink flowers appear continuously and in great abundance until frost
   Red Honeysuckle (a.k.a.Woodbine)- in my opinion, this vine is underused in the landscape; Southeast native; deer resistant, 2 inch red flowers sporadically during summer; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; not as fragrant & much less aggressive than commonly seen honeysuckle growing in the wild
   Ipomea 'Jenny May'- here is one you may not have heard of, but when in bloom at our shop folks come in and want it; fast growth and abundant large blue flowers  until frost; tender perennial in Coastal regions
   Asiatic Jasmine- great for evergreen groundcover; fragrant creamy flowers appear heavily when grown on a trellis, but appear rarely when grown only on the ground
   Vinca Vine- fast growing groundcover when grown in some shade; occasional blue flowers appear in spring
   Carolina Jessamine- South Carolina's state flower; deer resistant native plant of the Southeast; abundance of yellow flowers in spring; fragrance and ability to re-bloom varies by species
   Climbing Roses- often beautiful briefly, and then becoming too high maintenance for many home gardeners; use old varieties such as 'Red Cascade' or 'Lady Banks' for the least problems.
   Tree Ivy- rumored to be a cross between English ivy and Fatsia japonica & having some characteristics of both; does not produce aerial roots & is therefore not a threat to structures; an evergreen shrubby vine that is easily espaliered on walls; benefits from some shade but  on occasion I have seen it growing in full sun
   Vines can be an integral part of your home garden. When used correctly, they may provide fragrance, color, shade, privacy, and soften hard lines within the landscape. Proper selection is the key to long term success and satisfaction. Don't be afraid to introduce vining material into your landscape, but be sure to choose the right plant for the right place. Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave s. in NMB to find a great selection of vines to add to your  home landscape.

Crape Myrtles in the Landscape
             by Jay Keeter
                           by Jay Keeter

   There is no disagreement in regard to the value of Lagerstroemia species, commonly known as crape myrtle, in the southern landscape. Showy summer flowers, exfoliating bark, low maintenance requirements and brilliant fall foliage color make these plants attractive throughout the year. However, there is considerable disagreement about the correct spelling of the common name. In the Southern Living Garden Book, the name is written as "Crepe Myrtle". Numerous plant catalogues replace the "e" with an "a" and spell the name "Crape Myrtle". The most well regarded publication, frequently referred to as the Bible of horticultural manuals, is Dr. Michael  Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. According to Dr.Dirr, the correct spelling is "Crapemyrtle"(all one word). Since it is most often expressed as "crape myrtle", we shall use this spelling for our article. While we are at it, let's clear up another common misconception. Crape myrtle is not the plant that our town was named after. Anna Huntington (of Brookgreen Garden fame) often admired the native wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) growing in abundance along the coast. Observing the success of these tough adaptable plants inspired her to select the name for the beach. Our town's namesake, the wax myrtle (of the family Myricaceae) is not even distantly related to the crape myrtle (of the family Lythraceae).
   Now that we have cleared up some of the confusion in regard to names, let's compliment the plant on its many attributes. The form of crape myrtle is variable in size. Some are dwarf shrubs, others are large shrubs, and many grow as small to medium size trees. Their growth habit may be spreading with pendulous branching, or upright and erect. When trained as a tree, both the mottled bark and attractive stem architecture is appealing during the winter. During the cool season, the absence of leaves exposes smooth grey/beige bark which peels off to reveal pinkish to chestnut brown inner bark. During the fall of the year, many varieties of crape myrtle present brilliant colors of red, orange or yellow on leaves that persist for weeks before dropping leaves. These summer blooming beauties produce colorful flowers in shades of red, pink, purple, lavender, or white. Here is a tip that will encourage re-blooming. If your crape myrtle is of a size that allows you to reach the flowers, then remove spent flowers as they decline ,before they form a seed pod. This tricks the plant into thinking it has not successfully completed its reproductive cycle, and more blooms will appear through August and September.
   Crape myrtles bloom on newly produced wood and should be pruned during the winter to increase the next summer's flowers. Jokingly, the term "crape murder" is often used in reference to the much observed incorrect pruning of crape myrtle. Unless you are performing drastic corrective pruning, which is seldom necessary, then routine pruning should involve removing only the top 1/3 or 1/4 of the plant. Each season's cuts should be made either above or below the previous winter's pruning. This avoids the formation of poor branching known as "knuckling", in which the limb's appearance resembles that of a clenched fist with weak fingers developing from it. Luckily, crape myrtle is very forgiving of incorrect pruning, but for best results prune according to the following directions. On small growing shrub types, maintain compact form by pruning no more than ½ of the way below the flowering structures and the ground. On large shrub forms and trees, remove basal suckers and prune out lower limbs to expose the handsome trunk, and then round off the top by several feet. You will rarely remove more than 1/3 to 1/4 of total height.  If you live in the northernmost range for successfully growing crape myrtle (around climate zone 6), then you may have to prune your plants to nearly ground level and treat as a perennial.
   Many horticultural publications list dozens of varieties and each year new introductions enter the market. Some traits of newer varieties include earlier bloom, more compact growth, and disease resistance. Occasional insect problems occur from Japanese beetles, aphids, and whiteflies. These pesky insects secrete undigested food remnants, politely referred to as "honeydew", which is a host for sooty mold fungus. These insects and the black colored sooty mold can be detrimental to growth and may require treatment with a fungicide and insecticide. Another fungal problem is powdery mildew. Although unsightly, the undesired effect of powdery mildew is primarily aesthetic and rarely (maybe never) kills the plant. These problems are treatable if they occur, and overall, crape myrtle should be considered easily grown with little care.
   Crape myrtle is beautifully displayed as a single specimen or when planted in groups. Often dark green shrubs or groundcovers are planted beneath crape myrtles. The appearance of darker plant material at the base of crape myrtle contrasts well with both the brilliant flowers and the handsome bark. Gardeners desiring the most spectacular blooms should find a sunny location for this plant. Then simply sit back and enjoy all the qualities of crape myrtle for many years. Visit Tropical Nursery at 25th ave S in NMB to see our selection of hardy, disease resistant, quality crape myrtles.

Go Bananas
             by Jay Keeter

   Have you ever looked at your neighbor's landscape and thought "have they gone bananas"? Well, you may be right! Perhaps the tropical mindset of your neighbor has inspired him to install a small banana grove in his yard. Luckily, in the coastal region, this style of landscaping is acceptable and appropriate. Beach dwellers are fortunate to be able to successfully grow several types of hardy banana plants with very little care or maintenance. Some of these cultivars may only grow a few feet tall, while others will reach 12 feet or more in a single growing season. The large, coarse leaves suggest a tropical setting, especially when combined with exotic ginger lilies, black magic elephant ears, and palms. The care is simple. Look for a location with full or part sun, apply plenty of water, and feed with a fertilizer containing a sufficient amount of nitrogen and potassium (such as
14-7-14). During the growing season, as new growth emerges, older leaves will decline and should be removed. In the winter, all parts that turn brown from the cold should be removed. You need not be concerned about the severity of winter damage as long as you purchased a hardy banana variety. Not all varieties are winter hardy, so it is important to know which type you are planting. Often, the hardy banana plants return in such abundance that you may have plants to share with friends. Although non-hardy types may be brought in for the winter, this is often impractical because of their size. Therefore, in this article we shall discuss a few of the hardiest cultivars.
   Musa velutina is often called the red velvet or pink fuzzy banana due to the color and texture of the fruit. Unlike most banana plants that require 2 years for fruit production, Musa velutina produces a delightful inflorescence with red thumb size fruits every summer. These fruits are attractive, but remain too hard and seedy to ever eat. During a single growing season, Musa velutina can produce a small grove of 9 (+/-) feet tall plants. This is one of the easiest, most prolific and attractive bananas for the home landscape.
   Musa "Basjoo" is always catalogued as the world's most cold tolerant banana. It is often listed as being successfully grown in agricultural zone 5 (beyond our mountains and into Tennessee). The inflorescence is attractive, but both flowering and fruiting is infrequent. Even when fruits develop, they never exceed the size of your little finger. The strong fibrous trunk supports leaves which often measure over 5 feet long. The growth habit of Musa "Basjoo" makes a strong architectural statement within the landscape.
   If your garden space is limited, the more diminutive Mussellia lasiocarpa, commonly known as the Chinese yellow banana, may be the right plant for your landscape. Rarely exceeding 4 feet in a single growing season, the short, thick trunk and gray/green foliage add that tropical look to even the smallest yards, or can be grown on a patio in a container. Occasionally, an attractive but somewhat bizarre yellow bloom appears near the top of the plant. This plant may be short in stature, but is very prolific and produces many new plants during the growing season.
   Very few banana plants produce an edible fruit in the Carolina unless brought in for the winter. However, some clever horticulturists near Raleigh, N.C. have had dependable fruit production on Dwarf Orinoco bananas by using the following method. Each winter, they construct a cage of chicken wire around the trunk of the plant. Then they fill around the compact plant with fallen leaves. The leaf litter provides sufficient insulation to prevent winter die back, and delicious edible fruit appears late in the next summer.
   The next time your neighbors think you have "gone bananas", then prove them right. Banana plants are an important component to any tropical themed landscape, and one of the fastest and easiest plants you can grow.  Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave s in North Myrtle  and view our selection of cold hardy banana trees. The perfect plant to add an exotic feel to your coastal garden.

Control of Three Common Lawn Insects
         by Jay Keeter

   Our moderate, coastal climate is agreeable to more than our welcomed visitors from further inland. We also host significant populations of unwanted lawn pests. When new homeowners are first made aware of these pests, my usual comment is "Welcome to the South". In addition to bothersome mosquitoes, sizable roaches, and destructive termites, the coastal South provides perfect habitat for many lawn insects. Three of the more common lawn pests (grubs, chinch bugs, mole crickets) are controllable, but you may never eliminate them completely.
   Often pests may be first found in isolated spots rather than evenly throughout your turf. Various conditions of sun/shade, wet/dry, soil temperatures & soil types, and even slope of land influence pest development. Applying a soapy flush may be helpful in identification of many lawn insects. The process is simple: mix 3 tablespoons of lemon dishwashing liquid in one gallon of water. Pour solution over a one square foot area. Repeat process in several suspect areas. Wait 5 to 10 minutes for irritated underground insects to surface for identification. The following information may help you properly identify, understand, and control 3 common lawn pests that may be bugging you. This information, and more, is also available from your local extension agent or Clemson University resource specialists with horticultural responsibilities.
   Mole cricket : (Description) Light brown cricket with shovel like feet for digging; about 1 1/2 inch long; resides primarily underground but may briefly emerge at night to move from lawn to lawn; active throughout most of the year in our coastal area, feeding primarily at night on roots
(Symptoms) Pencil width slightly raised tunnels with small vase shaped openings at ground level; dead spots often appear first in moist areas of lawn
(Control) Contact chemical insecticides are most effective when night temperatures are above 60 degrees; repeat applications often necessary; poisoned baits are effective after August when young nymphs are feeding heavily
   Chinch bug: (Description) One of the most potentially damaging insects due to its ability to quickly reach populations that kill large areas of turf in just a few days; less than ¼ inch long with a white colored cross pattern on their backs; a close hands and knees inspection should occur at first signs of infestations; damage is two-fold, (1) removal of plant juices and (2) insertion of toxins into plant; 2 generations occur per year and therefore may need repeated pesticide applications.
(Symptoms) Patches of dead grass appear first in the sunniest areas of the lawn; lawn decline may be preceded by change in grass color from green to yellowish/brown
(Control) Beneficial nematodes, which are a predator of chinch bugs, are available from specialty mail order companies; many chemical insecticides are available which work effectively when used according to the instructions
   White grubs: (Description) Approximately 1 inch long worm-like larvae, usually "C" shaped when uncovered; feeds on roots of all lawn grasses
(Symptoms) Lawn areas turn brown due to root damage; young grubs begin feeding heavily in early summer and continue into fall
(Control) The environmentally safe product Milky Spore is effective but may take years to work well; light infestations are tolerable, but when more than 8 -9 grubs per square foot are detected, then chemical treatments should begin
   Many insect problems are sporadic and unpredictable. Therefore, most pest control experts and friends of the environment agree that the application of chemicals to lawns should not be preventive in nature. An important part of deterring insects is to keep your turf healthy, especially during periods of unusual stress from climatic conditions. Just as a healthy body combats disease or pests more effectively, it is the same with healthy turf. Pest problems are often indicative of unfavorable growing conditions and poor grass health.  Both environmentally and financially, it is beneficial to treat damaging infestations only as they occur. Monitor your lawn regularly for problems, as pests are best controlled when their populations are still small. When you must apply a pesticide, make sure you follow all label instructions. These instructions will describe proper mixing/application rates, as well as personal safety information such as re-entry intervals and use of protective clothing. Visit our website to find more articles on  local horticultural information.

Garden Tool Safety Tips
          by Jay Keeter

   We have all probably seen the comedic routine where an awkward gardener steps on a garden rake that was left on the ground with the tines facing upward. The force of the man's weight quickly launches the handle upward, hitting the unfortunate gardener squarely between the eyes. Every year thousands of homeowners have similar accidents sustained while performing routine garden/landscape tasks. Mowers, weed whackers, axes & machetes, saws, pruners and even shovels damage body parts of enthusiastic, but not very careful, gardeners. Most of these accidents could have been avoided by following a few simple safety rules.
   Before using any type of power tool, read the owner's manual. The manual contains information on operating and maintaining the tool, as well as safety precautions. After reading the instructions, then you may safely begin your work. To be safe, try to minimize interruptions at the work area. Proceed with extreme caution if you are around children, pets, or road traffic. If your outdoor work involves lifting heavy objects, avoid bending at your waist & get help or machinery if needed. When straining to lift an object, try to reduce the stress to your back by comfortably spreading your feet, bend at the knees, keep your back straight, and then lift.  Never attempt an outdoor project if your judgment or physical ability is impaired by extreme fatigue, alcohol, or other distractions.
   Wearing the correct clothing or protective gear can reduce injuries significantly. Before spraying chemicals, read the instructions to determine how much of your body should be covered, and how long you should wait before re-entering the treated area. Many common pesticides require that long sleeve shirts, trousers (not shorts), socks and proper shoes or boots should be worn when applying the product. The re-entry period may be stated as: after product has been washed in with water; after product is dry; or state a period of time up to (but rarely exceeding) 24 hours after application. Wearing the correct clothing and obeying the re-entry rules will protect the applicator from skin contact with potentially dangerous chemicals. There are other hazardous situations that can be easily avoided by wearing the correct footwear. Open toe shoes or sandals should not be worn while performing horticultural tasks. Sandals offer little or no protection from chemicals used on lawns. Furthermore, sandals leave your feet vulnerable to the destructive force of misdirected simple hand tools. Shovels, axes, pruners, saws, and other implements that are used carelessly in the garden can easily sever a toe. Dust masks may be worn to reduce inhaling large amounts of pollen or dust. Gloves may protect your hands against everything from splinters to adhesives. Avoid loose fitting clothing, dangling jewelry, and unrestrained long hair, as they may get caught up in moving parts, such as spinning chain saw chains. Safety goggles can save your eyesight and should be fog free, shatter proof, scratch resistant, and comfortable to wear. Even a pair of sunglasses will help block debris from your weed whacker that could be thrown into your eyes.
   Use your tools safely and efficiently. If using electric tools, avoid wet surfaces to decrease the chance of shocking yourself or slipping and falling. If you do encounter a  problem, cut off or unplug that tool to avoid damage to yourself or your equipment. Routinely check the condition of blades, blade guards, belts, etc. Following regular maintenance procedures will keep your tools working more efficiently, and last longer.
   When using a ladder, observe the following common sense advice. Do not climb higher than stipulated and do not overload the stated limits of weight. Overlap sections of extension ladders by 3 rungs and tie off the top if possible. When necessary, raise additional equipment to higher work areas with a rope and bucket. Wear shoes that will provide good traction on those narrow ladder rungs. Be careful not to get off balance or over reach when pruning from a ladder.
   As you perform many landscape tasks, the possibility of injuring yourself, or others, when using tools or moving heavy materials can be minimized. As a responsible gardener, you should strive to reduce accidents by adhering to these basic safety procedures. Nothing ruins a great day in the garden more than a trip to the hospital's emergency room. Just ask my wife. Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th Ave .S. in NMB,S.C. for all your plant needs.

Victory Gardens Make A
                    by Jay Keeter

   During the 20th century, victory gardens were commonly associated with a patriotic movement of both World Wars. The purpose of these gardens was to reduce pressure on the civilian food supply network. As those major wars progressed, commercial food production was reduced dramatically. Agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and many struggling farmers were devastated by the conflict. The concept of local victory gardens caught on quickly with civilians still at home. Using both private and public lands, domestic foodstuff production was increased significantly. This effort produced two positive effects. Local produce was available for consumption at home, thereby leading to the lower price of vegetables needed by the U.S. War Department to feed troops abroad. The savings could then be spent elsewhere on the military effort.
   Many victory gardens of the Second World War were inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt's vegetable garden on the White House grounds. Soon victory gardens began springing up in backyards and vacant lots. In New York City, the lawns around vacant "Riverside" were devoted to victory gardens. Portions of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park became plots for vegetable production. Fenway Victory Garden in Boston and Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis remain active as the last surviving examples from World War II. Currently, there are some municipal campaigns promoting similar gardens in public spaces. Victory garden websites are now petitioning the public to renew a national campaign for the establishment of victory gardens in an effort to supply vegetables to the hungry within our own communities. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. we had the opportunity to view the current "Kitchen Garden" on the White House grounds. The 1,100 square feet garden was started by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009. The organic garden is well maintained by grounds staff and supplies food used in the White House. To assure proper pollination of the vegetables, bee hives were also installed, which also provides organic honey. Michelle Obama's garden on the White House grounds is the first since that of Eleanor Roosevelt's, and was intended to raise awareness about healthy eating. Both First Lady's gardens were considered a morale booster, in that gardeners can feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown.
   Historically, other vegetable gardens have been grown at the White House. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson hired the first White House gardener, whose duties included tending a vegetable garden. John Quincy Adams later established a fruit tree seedling nursery and a 2 acre garden filled with both edible delights and ornamental plants. Receipts for seeds indicate Abe Lincoln enjoyed fresh fruits and vegetables grown in a White House garden.
   The enthusiasm associated with gardening for self reliance diminished after the Second World War. The post-war, global economy made produce available in abundance and reasonably priced. For years, we have seen constant advertising promoting the reliance on others for our food supply. Much of one generation of younger consumers has never been exposed to home or local gardens. Recent questioning of pre-school children indicates many may not realize the original source of their food is the farm, not the actual grocery store. As our population ages, we are losing the knowledge and experience of those more directly involved in the Second World War and the Great Depression. If the current economy continues to weaken, could we see resurgence in agricultural lessons learned from the past? Not only do we have an opportunity to provide fresh vegetables to our own table, but we can also educate American children about the importance of eating their way to a healthy lifestyle.
   In our coastal region we are fortunate enough to successfully plant cool season crops such as broccoli, collards, lettuce, and cabbage. Start tilling up that soil now, remove competing weeds, and incorporate organic material into sandy soil. A sunny location, dependable source of water, and a little hard work will pay off well. By starting to prep the ground now, your own victory garden will be ready to go in time to install plants this fall.
   History seems to run in cycles, and the strong economic growth of the 1990's seems to be fading for much of our nation's population. Children may get their only healthy meal for the day at school, and charitable foodbanks are all running low on supplies. However, we can learn from the past. John Quincy Adams once wrote to a friend: "now I shall plant, if at all, more for the public than for myself". I think that represents the optimistic and generous attitude embraced by true gardeners.   
You can contact us at  for more informative articles on coastal gardening. Or visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave.s. in NMB,SC.

Garden Tool Safety Tips
          by Jay Keeter
Common Foliage Problems 
        Of The Summer
                         by Jay Keeter

   As summer progresses, disease pressure upon plants seems to increase. Often many fungal problems that appear on foliage are associated with the high humidity and temperatures of the summer. The presentation of symptoms may vary from plant to plant, since the actual detrimental diseases vary in their nature. While some problems develop on underground roots, others appear on stems and foliage. Some fungi and insects work together in a mutually supportive effort. Other fungal problems seem to appear out of nowhere. Although insect problems are troublesome, usually the pest is easily and quickly identified. However, plant diseases are often overlooked or misdiagnosed until it is too late.
   There are a few common foliage problems which can result from water and/or chemical applications. In spring, centipede grass may show bright yellow streaking or spotting if too much nitrogen or phosphorous was applied unevenly during the cooler part of the year. The result is commonly called "spring dieback". When over fertilized, semi-tropical plants such as palms and bananas may appear to have burnt brown leaf margins, caused by excessive amounts of boron. This condition may  also be caused by the quality of many municipal supplies of water. When palms initially sprout healthy growth, then experience the brown wilting of "frizzle top" at their apex, the condition may have been prevented by the use of fertilizers containing manganese. Every home gardener should submit a soil test to the county extension agent to determine their soil "Ph". Without being too technical, "Ph" is best described as an assessment of soil acidity or alkalinity, which can be adjusted by the use of lime or aluminum sulfate. Do not apply these products without first receiving a soil test to determine how much of which product to use. Extremes in either direction may tie up the efficient distribution of nutrients to plants, with leaves appearing pale with darker veins.
   Recently, we have noticed the appearance of powdery mildew fungus on hydrangea and crape myrtle. The fungus appears as a light dappling of grey color over leaf surfaces. Powdery mildew is rarely fatal, but unsightly diminished growth results from this problem. Control can be achieved by spraying with fungicides, or a weekly spraying of baking soda (3 tablespoons) mixed with water (1 gallon) until the problem is no longer visible. Even more damaging to crape myrtles, gardenias, and a few other plants is black sooty fungus, which is prevalent in hot summer months. Black sooty fungus gives an overall black tint to stems and leaves. This fungus lives in bug honeydew, which is the undigested food  passed out of insects- yes, we are talking about bug poop. This means you have 2 problems: (1) an insect infestation and (2) a fungal disease hosted by the insect droppings. Agricultural oils, such as neem oil or volck oil, can be used to eliminate the problem. These products are approved as organic pesticides, but care must be taken when applications are made during the summer. Plants with tender foliage can be damaged by oil treatments in hot weather.
   Entomosporium leaf fungus complex has practically eliminated all healthy red tip photinia in South Carolina. Apparently, the next common host plant for this deadly fungus may be some species of Indian hawthorne. When severe, the homeowner should discard affected plants, otherwise elimination of the problem will be practically impossible. Clean up well around the area from which plants are removed and then install more disease resistant plant choices.
   Although waxleaf ligustrum is heavily planted and generally considered bullet proof, there is often an unsightly problem on the older leaves. During wet or humid weather, a dark circle with lighter inner area persists on leaves until fresh new growth appears. The distinct appearance of this fungus has led to its common name, "frog eye fungus". Then the diseased leaf frequently drops off, but the fungus may later develop on the more recent growth. This problem becomes less obvious during the summer, when ligustrum grows more rapidly. Spraying with fungicides can be effective, but many people choose to ignore it since there is minimal effect on plants during the growing season.
   Finally, here is a little practical advice on controlling fungal foliage diseases. When using organic or synthetic fungicides, repeat applications every 7 to 14 days are usually necessary for prolonged periods. This makes the complete elimination of undesirable fungi difficult for  
most homeowners. In addition to obvious fungal disease symptoms on plant foliage, there are many fungal problems that exist in the root zone. These underground fungi are numerous and can be the subject of a later article. Controlling fungal disease can be costly in both time and dollars. Homeowners should use disease resistant plant choices, install plants in the correct environment, and use good cultural practices when growing plants. Keeping plants healthy will go a long way in preventing these problems. If you must spray plants for the control of any type of plant pests, always read the product information and follow the instructions carefully.
Visit  Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave s. in NMB,SC for all your nursery needs. 

Enjoy The Garden With All
           Five Senses
                       by Jay Keeter

In a highly technical society, the most common mode of entertainment or enlightenment is via computer, television, or printed media. Now, abstractions of reality are conveyed to us and our brain deciphers the real image. Converting a digitally produced image into a real feeling has become commonplace. However, only a few generations ago, the learning experience involved a more direct interaction with nature through all five senses.
   Unless you are an urban dweller or never venture far from your condominium, there is still an opportunity to fully experience nature in your own backyard. Even a small home landscape can provide elements that stimulate all five of our basic senses. A well planned home garden should involve more than meeting the landscape style similar to every other neighbor in the community. In fact, a well planned landscape should be the gardener's own version of the Garden of Eden. Just as Adam and Eve may have experienced the various attributes of their garden, we should also appreciate the qualities of our home garden with all of our senses.
   Fragrances in the landscape often provide immediate rewards to our sense of smell, and may also trigger pleasant memories. Frequently, after enjoying the smell of a rose, folks at the nursery may comment on the smell of a rose from their grandmother's garden, as if going back in time to a more pleasant part of their life. The aroma of fragrant ginger lilies or gardenias may spark similar feelings.
   As a child, did you ever run barefoot through the grassy lawn on a warm summer day? If you have not enjoyed your lawn from the bottom of your feet in a few years, then kick off those shoes and stroll through a plush lawn. With no leather, rubber, fabric, or synthetic sole separating your feet from the grass, you may feel a connection with nature that has eluded you as an adult. Of course, the sense of touch may also betray you-stepping on that sand spur, getting scratched up in thorny wild blackberries, or pricking your finger when picking a colorful rose can create some pain.
   All of your visual needs may be satisfied within the complex world of flowers. The range of colors and shapes expressed in flowers is outstanding to one's vision. From the expression of complex patterns within the bloom of a passion vine flower, to the simple majesty of huge funnel shaped blooms on angel trumpets, the variety of colors and flower forms will delight anyone. We often associate the appearance of cut flowers with important features of our lives. A cut flower bouquet may stimulate romance, whereas a solemn arrangement at a funeral may offer comfort. A stroll along a colorful planting of daisies, daylilies, crape myrtles, camellias, and azaleas provides the viewer color in easily maintained home landscapes as well as in botanical gardens.
   If you are trying to unwind from a hard day at work, what could be more relaxing than the sound of moving water? Listening to water splashing over rocks and into a small pond while reclining in your hammock may be so relaxing that it could lead to an early bedtime. The uplifting of your spirit may be achieved by the sound of a cool gentile breeze on a hot summer day. Sound in the garden is often so subtle that it is frequently overlooked.
   Plants are a culinary delight. Biting into a freshly picked strawberry in spring, tasting that first homegrown tomato of the summer, celebrating Thanksgiving with pumpkin pie, or enjoying those delicious collard greens in winter are all seasonal treats that started with successful plant production. The range of flavors nature's bounty offers us includes everything our taste buds could desire. Everyone has a favorite, from mild seasonings derived from fresh herbs to scalding hot pepper dishes. Our sense of taste is satisfied daily thanks to avid gardeners and farmers.
   Don't get so caught up in the fast pace of life that you overlook the simple pleasures from our gardens. Plants provide great rewards to all or senses. Let's appreciate the role our gardens and landscapes play in daily life. After all, without plants we would be naked, homeless and hungry. To discover the treasures of our garden, visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave. NMB, SC.


By: Jay Keeter

   Ornamental relatives of the edible fig are abundant throughout the world.  Banyan trees, rubber plants, small-leaved climbing fig, and indoor plants referred to as weeping figs are only a few members of the large Ficus genus.  These plants all have one thing in common- their ability to eventually bear a fruit (inedible in most cases).  However, to Southern gardeners, the most prized species of fig consist of the edible varieties.
   Home garden figs do not need cross pollination, and some varieties bear two crops per season.  The first crop appears late spring/early summer on the previous year's wood.  Heavy pruning during the winter will eliminate this early crop.  The second crop, which usually bears larger and more abundant fruit, appears around mid-September.  Ripe figs are easy to harvest, but also very perishable.  It is for this reason that you rarely see them on grocery store shelves for extended periods of time.  To truly enjoy the taste of fresh figs at ripest, you need to grow them in your home garden. 
   All you need to grow fig trees in the Coastal regions are a warm, sunny location, a space about 12 feet wide, and an appetite for the fruit.  Since they do not require another plant for cross pollination, one fig is sufficient for fruit production.  Plants are pest-free, drought tolerant (once established) and not particular about soil types.  Fig trees are probably the easiest fruiting tree to cultivate in the southern United States.  Trees may start bearing some fruit the first year in the ground and will produce very heavy crops within just another year or two.  In fact, older trees will produce more fresh fruit than most folks will consume.  Canned figs and fig jams can extend the availability of the fruit in your pantry for years.
   Fig trees are not only good producers of fruit, but are also valuable in the home garden because of their aesthetic value.  The large, coarse leaves give a tropical look to the landscape.  Larger trees can produce beneficial shade in hot areas.  Older trees produce slightly gnarled limbs with smooth gray bark that is particularly attractive during the winter when the plant is void of foliage.  Fig trees are also great wildlife attractions, seemingly irresistible to birds when the fruit becomes ripe.  Fig trees are very long lived and can add an impressive element to the home landscape for many generations. 
   Although over a dozen different varieties are commonly grown in the Southeast, most vary slightly in climate adaptability.  Two of our favorite varieties, 'Celeste' and 'Lemon,' seem particularly well adapted for our local conditions.  'Celeste' is very cold hardy and dependably produces two crops per year.  The fruit is very sweet and great for both fresh eating and canning.  'Lemon' figs are slightly larger than 'Celeste.' The name is commonly used in reference to all types of yellow skin figs.  'Lemon' figs are delicious fresh, but their larger size also makes them appropriate for grilling.  One grilling recipe is simple: slice the fig in half, stuff with Feta cheese and bacon bits, and grill for just a few minutes.
   Organically grown figs are particularly healthy for you, and fig trees are one of the few fruits that require no spraying and respond well to organic-based fertilizers.  In fact, many growers never fertilize fig trees, since high nitrogen fertilizers stimulate growth at the expense of fruit.  Figs are a "must have" plant for southern fruit gardens. 
   Stop by Tropical Nursery for your choice of 'Celeste' or 'Lemon' figs trees (reasonably priced at only $15 in three gallon containers) and you will be eating fresh figs within one year.  Tropical Nursery is located at 801 25th Avenue South in North Myrtle Beach, SC.  For directions, go to


September's Garden
Attracts Butterflies
      by Jay Keeter

   In September, a delightful treat becomes obvious to everyone who enjoys butterflies. Whirling and swirling, seemingly with little effort, butterflies appear as if floating upon clouds over our flowers. These colorful creatures provide an unexpected splash of color that adds ever changing interest to our gardens. A well planned landscape can reward the home gardener with both beautiful flowers and a host of fluttering beauties drawn to their nectar.
   Many desirable perennial herbaceous plants and flowering shrubs are available to attract butterflies to your home garden. Some of these plants perform better in our hot, humid area than others.  In this article we will discuss a few of the best plant choices for coastal gardeners. Most of these plants require a sunny location, but can be successfully grown with very little care once they become established. Butterfly attractants should be planted in highly visible areas for the most enjoyment. If your garden space is limited, large pots can be used on decks and patios to provide effective butterfly viewing sites.
   In the coastal region, our top butterfly attractant is commonly referred to as a Bush Petunia. This is a misnomer since it is neither a petunia nor a bush. It is actually a vigorous growing hardy perennial plant with a bloom which resembles that of a petunia. Correctly referred to as Ruellia brittoniana, this plant is a butterfly magnet. The most common form of Ruellia grows 3-4 feet tall and sports purple/blue flowers from early summer until the end of November. If you are looking for a lot of bang for the buck, then this plant is right for you. I have observed over 70 butterflies at a time hovering above a well established planting of Ruellia. Inexpensive and fast to grow, Ruellia will multiply in such abundance that you will have plants to share with your neighbors in just a few years.  If the standard Ruellia is too tall for your garden, then consider using the dwarf series, 'Katie'. Ruellia 'Katie', which is available with pink or purple/blue flowers, deserves more use in the home landscape. Their form and size resembles that of a beach ball that has been cut in half and placed on the ground. The entire hemispheric shaped plant is covered with an abundance of flowers. As an added bonus, all forms of Ruellia brittoniana are salt tolerant and can be used on the ocean front.
   Although almost to the point of being overplanted (due to their remarkable ability to survive hot, humid, and dry weather), Gold Mound Lantana is a nearly bullet proof plant. The constant flowers from early summer until frost and the ease of growth have made this plant a very popular choice among gardeners in our region. Mounding and trailing varieties of Lantana are useful as perennial groundcovers or as low growing colorful plants in the landscape. When purchasing Lantana, be aware that many newer hybrids are not winter hardy and should be used for annual color in the garden. Stick with the old fashioned types (Gold Mound, Trailing White, and Mrs. Huff) for plants that will come back dependably from year to year.
   Perhaps the best known butterfly attractants are members of the genus Buddleia, commonly referred to as Butterfly Bush. These plants come in a wide range of colors, including shades of blue, purple, yellow, white and pink. The only drawback to this plant is the nearly constant need to remove old blooms- a process known as deadheading. Deadheading your Butterfly Bush insures more constant bloom and a more attractive bush. The extra effort during the long blooming season is worthwhile, and the flowers will attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. Upon close examination of the blooms with your nose, you will discover a delightful fragrance that is apparently pleasing to both butterflies and humans.
   Several types of fall blooming Salvias are at their best at this time of year. One of these salvias, or sages as they are popularly called, that is particularly outstanding is the Mexican Bush Sage. Purple flower spikes begin to arise from the plant's apex just as yellow butterflies pass through our area. Seemingly irresistible to our fluttering friends, this plant is a sure winner in the butterfly garden. Often people come to the nursery mistakenly asking for Butterfly Bush, when they actually have brought in a piece of Mexican Bush Sage to be identified. This case of mistaken identity is understandable, as both plants have similar colored flowers and attract large numbers of butterflies.
   Whether you are young or old (or somewhere in between) the sight of butterflies in the garden is bound to bring a smile to your face. Although the quantity of butterflies  seems to vary from year to year, you can be assured of attracting a fair share to your home garden by using the plants we've discussed in this article. September is considered by many to be our best butterfly month, and it is also the correct time to install these types of plants. The milder and wetter fall weather in our area usually lasts until the first of December. One can think of fall along the coast as a second spring, the perfect time to plant many trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. What are you waiting for?  Don't delay; plant today to enjoy the fall migration of butterflies through our area.
Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th av. s. in NMB to discover our selection of butterfly attractants and invite these beauties into your garden.

Responsible Watering Can
          Save Money
                         by Jay Keeter

   During the past summer, the Southeast has generally been spared devastating dry periods. However, both Horry and Marion counties experienced a lack of water that earned the designation of "severe" drought. This condition occurred sporadically, but these mini-droughts were problematic for healthy plant growth and appearance. Although falling well short of total plant destruction, these conditions produced less vigorous growth and higher water bills. Another indirect result was an increase in plant damage from pest and disease. Drought stressed plants are less efficient at defending themselves from pathogens and pests than are well hydrated plants. Many homeowners were shocked by water bills of $150 to $200 per month. It became tempting to simply quit watering to save money, but as wise old folks will tell you-"Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish". In most cases, the cost of replacing dead plant material or lawns would far exceed the annual water bill. We should keep this in proper perspective- currently most people pay less money annually for water than they do for their cell phone and cable bills. That does not mean you should be irresponsible with water. Ground water and surface water are finite resources which are only renewed by substantial rain or snowfall activity. In case you are new to the area, you cannot count on snowfall here. Currently, in America, we pump out more water from various sources than is recharged.
   The time has come to consider alternative water practices for our landscapes. Nationally, nearly one third of our residential water supply goes to landscape irrigation. Let's consider several ways to reduce inefficient use and still create and maintain beautiful landscapes. I am not endorsing the practice of abandoning water applications, but rather using water more wisely.
   If you are designing a new installation or renovating an existing landscape, consider the concept of xeric landscaping. The use of xeric plants in large beds, complemented by smaller areas of turf, can create an attractive yard which requires very little irrigation. In Arizona, restrictions have been placed on the amount of turf grass used in landscapes. It may be time for local municipalities to incorporate the same restrictions in their landscape ordinances. Xeric plants require little or no irrigation once they are established. This does not mean you have to plant a yard full of prickly cactus. There are a large number of trees, shrubs, flowering herbaceous plants, and ornamental grasses that are considered xeric. This type of planting allows you to decrease or eliminate supplemental watering, therefore reducing the amount of your water bill. If you are not familiar with which plants are considered xeric, then consult a professional. More information is available on xeric plants from your county extension agent, online at various sites, and from our staff at Tropical Nursery.
   In many cases, wasteful overwatering can be easily managed by checking for excessively wet spots and water flowing down streets and sidewalks. Adjusting spray heads is often a simple way to resolve this problem and it will reduce the impact on community drainage systems. The most efficient irrigation systems will not only provide 100% coverage, but will also provide matched precipitation within each zone. Matched precipitation assures even watering throughout an area, preventing extremely wet areas adjacent to drier areas. All systems should include a weather monitoring device to prevent watering during wet, rainy periods. Drip irrigation and micro-watering systems can further increase watering efficiency.
   Homeowners may want to install rain collecting barrels to downspouts to provide a supplemental source of water. On a similar but larger scale, in 2007 Georgia Tech University in Atlanta began collecting water in cisterns to irrigate landscaping. The majority of water collected and used for Georgia Tech landscapes is collected from the condensate of air conditioning systems, which is later pumped out for irrigation. The program is a great example of environmental stewardship, and with a capacity of over 200,000 gallons, the cisterns have proven to be a reliable water source.
   Other alternatives to the water problem exist, many are noteworthy and some seem ridiculous. The use of shallow or deep wells relieves the pressure on municipal water sources. Eventually both types of wells depend on a replenishing of water from rain to remain viable during various levels of drought. The use of artificial turf may be acceptable in some situations, although the long term disintegration of these products negatively effects the environment. Totally without any merit is the practice of painting your ground and concrete green, but the practice is not untried by some homeowners. Of course, neither green paint nor artificial turf contributes to a healthy environment in the way that live plants will. Additionally- as a younger barefoot kid you may have enjoyed the cool feeling of grass between your toes on a warm summer day. Could you ever get that same feeling from painted dirt or concrete?

Visit Tropical Nursery at
801 25th Ave. S. in NMB, SC to discover xeric plants suited to the coastal region.    
                         by Jay Keeter

   Often homeowners have highly visible parts of their lawn that refuse to support a healthy stand of grass. The cause may vary from yard to yard, but the troublesome spots are often difficult or expensive to correct. One practical solution to solving this problem involves the use of evergreen groundcovers.
   The first step in this process is to realize that a well designed bed of groundcover plant material can be an aesthetically pleasing element of the landscape. An attractively shaped bed may not necessarily be the exact size of the bare spot in the lawn, but rather a shape that is more pleasant to view. Here is a handy tip: use a garden hose or long rope to form the desired outline of the bed on the ground. This can be re-shaped until you are satisfied with the appearance. Retrieve a bag of flour from your kitchen cabinet. Using flour to outline beds is environmentally smart and very economical. Gently dust the flour over the hose/rope, leaving a white outline of the bed on the ground. Spray any undesirable vegetation within the designated outline using a systemic, non-selective herbicide. Always follow the instructions on the chemical's label.
   Once the undesirable vegetation is dead, you may need to add a small amount of organic soil amendment or additional soil. Creating a slightly raised bed improves plant growth in several ways. It can provide improved soil structure and nutrition, better drainage, and more warmth around developing roots.  Raised soil heats up more quickly earlier in the day than level ground. To further define the line separating existing lawn from the new bed, cut a shallow edge along the perimeter with a shovel. This will also aid in the retention of mulch.
   Now your bed is ready to go, so let's consider plant choices. Groundcovers do not necessarily need to be low or flat on the ground, although many are. They should eventually fill in significant sections of the new bed. Using a variety of groundcover plants may provide a better appearance than the overuse of just one type of plant. Plant culture, form, color, texture and size should be considered when making your decision. The following plant suggestions are appropriate for use in our coastal region and will perform well when properly cared for.
   Milky Way Aspidistra: dark leaves with a celestial pattern of stripes and dots arise from underground rhizomes, rarely exceeding 18 inches in height; requires good drainage and shade; often listed as xeric (requiring little or no water once established) and deer resistant
   Holly Fern and Autumn Fern: Both are evergreen with upright stems that eventually form dense clumps; multiple plants should be installed to quickly achieve the appearance of a fern grotto; coarse texture suggests a tropical appearance
   Spreading Junipers: many species to choose from including Japanese Dwarf Garden Juniper (mat forming), Blue Rug Juniper (prostrate),and Parson Juniper (horizontal branching); all require good drainage and a sunny location; excellent drought tolerance, deer tolerance, and salt spray tolerance
   Liriope and Ophiopogon: more commonly known as Border Grass and Mondo Grass; all types of Border Grass tolerate sun or shade whereas mondo grass seems to benefit from some shade; grasslike leaves eventually recurve down toward ground on older growth; summer flowers (white, purple, lilac) are followed by berrylike fruit in fall; few pest problems; note: liriope spicata is running and invasive, while Liriope muscari is a clumper
   Creeping Fig:low spreading with lacy pattern of stems and small leaves; may also be used to adhere to and cover brick, stucco, or wood walls; famous in Charleston courtyard gardens; may drop leaves in severe winters but quickly re-foliates in warmer weather; inedible fruits may appear on very mature plants; deer and drought resistant
   Asiatic Jasmine: grows well in sun or light shade; coexists well as an understory planting with other trees and shrubs; new growth appears as attractive reddish/brown and turns dark glossy green; occasional creamy/pale yellow fragrant blooms; deer, salt, and drought resistant
   If you need to install a new landscape, or simply want to improve upon those bare spots in the lawn, then evergreen groundcovers may be right for you. Furthermore, now is a great time plant. Less heat stress, increased rainfall and seasonally mild conditions continuing for months are almost like a second spring. Fall is for planting!
Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th av. s. in NMB,SC  to add some of these great groundcovers  to your landscape.                           Find more garden articles at 

Combine Fall Flowering Perennials and Shrubs
           By Jay Keeter

   One of any gardener's favorite times of the year is approaching, as evidenced by the cooler temperatures and shorter hours of daylight. Fall is almost here and Coastal residents should view it as a second spring. Many green plants have been handsomely growing through the long summer's weather. Now, seemingly relieved enough from the heat and sun to summon new energy, these plants will become the showpiece of the Fall landscape. Fall's comparison to Spring is more than a comment on plant re-vigor. Cultural factors during this time are also similar to those of the Spring. Generally, our water table increases (more rain), there is a moderation of temperature and humidity, soil conditions encourage root development for the next 6 weeks, and the gardener's second wind comes back with a vengeance. It is this second round of "Spring Fever" in the Fall that inspires us to return to the garden. Let's get our hands a little dirty before the weather gets too chilly. Luckily for Coastal residents, Fall is the best time for successfully planting many trees, shrubs, and perennials.
   One sound design principle suggests the use of perennials, which go dormant in the winter, in combination with evergreen shrubbery. One example is the use of extremely fragrant perennial Ginger Lily with the compact, evergreen Camellia sasanqua 'Shi Shi Gashira'. Above the 4 ft. (+) height of the Ginger Liliy a fluorescence of white, yellow, orange, pink, or salmon is produced. Then the air becomes perfumed with a strong honeysuckle-like fragrance. We frequently use these Ginger Lilies behind 'Shi Shi Gashira', which also blooms at this time. The rose/pink Camellia flowers may appear for months and the glossy green leaves persist year round. Many ornamental Salvias (Sage) are at their best during this time of the year. Don't confuse those little red annual Salvias with the great number of perennial Salvias now available. Two impressive Fall blooming Sages are Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) and Salvia madrensis (Forsythia Sage). Both of these plants have spectacular flowers during the Fall that are a butterfly magnet. Mexican Bush Sage, often mistaken for Butterfly Bush, has hairy leaves and tall spikes of purple & white flowers that are great in the garden or as cut flowers. The giant growing Forsythia (up to 6 ft.) has large panicles of butter yellow blooms. Salvia greggi I and Salvia microphylla actually produce flowers for about 7 months of the year, with an encore presentation during the Fall. These Salvias are more compact (around 3 ft.) and show off well with a dark green backdrop of Dwarf Burford Holly or Nellie Stevens Holly.  The regal 'Purple Majesty' Salvia adds a sense of richness to any garden and contrasts well with variegated plant material.
   The genus Odontonema contains two outstanding species that are perfect for shadier gardens. Both types have 4-6 inch long terminal spikes of purple or red that are held above the shiny green foliage. These 2 plants, usually referred to as purple or red Firespike, seem irresistible to hummingbirds. Their 3 ft. height and love of shade make them a complimentary plant for the compact Gumpo and Red Ruffle azaleas.
    Don't hesitate- Fall is for planting, and for planting more than just Mums. Take advantage of the great weather and put these colorful perennial/shrub combinations in your yard now.To find these great perennials and shrubs, visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th av.s. In NMB, SC.

Ornamental Grasses Are
Fall's Gift to Gardeners
                      By Jay Keeter

   Here is great news for gardeners facing adverse growing conditions or frustration with their limited horticultural skills. Ornamental grasses may be the "bullet proof" plants to use in your landscape. A sunny location, good drainage, occasional fertilization, and an annual pruning will meet the requirements for successfully growing these plants. Plant size, plumage, leaf pattern, and plant texture may vary from species to species, but the success rate of these graceful beauties is consistent among all types of gardeners. Some ornamental grasses are native to much of our country, whereas others are introductions from afar. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of ornamental grasses are currently on the plant market, with new introductions being offered each year. With so many choices, selecting the best plants for your use may seem overwhelming. To help you simplify making the right decision, this article will portray the best qualities of several varieties. These plants are reasonably priced, commonly available, and have stood the test of time in Coastal landscapes.                       
     Within one large group of ornamental grasses, Miscanthus sinensis, several types are outstanding. For the homeowner desiring a more compact plant, 'Adagio' and 'Arabesque' may be the right choice. The foliage of these plants rarely exceeds 30 inches in height. The tan plumes rise above the foliage in the late summer or early fall. All members of the Miscanthus genus have plumes that are best described as fan shaped in appearance. Growing much larger than 'Adagio' or 'Arabesque', Miscanthus sinensis 'Cosmopolitan' may reach 6-8 feet in height. The stiff foliage of 'Cosmopolitan' has creamy white bands running down both sides of each leaf. Most Miscanthus are hardy from the southernmost states up to the lower states of New England, making this one of the most commonly used grasses by landscape designers.
   Although Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) dominated the plant market during the 1980's, now the standard species has fallen out of favor with many homeowners. Its large and vigorous growth habit just proved too much for many folks to maintain and prune. However, Pampas grass may have the showiest, creamy white plumes of all the ornamental grasses. Home gardeners, don't despair! A newer, more compact variety has finally become more commonly available to the public. Dwarf Pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila', is much more compact and manageable than the original species. With foliage topping out at only 4 feet in height, this is a practical choice for many  gardeners. This dwarf selection may be smaller in growth, but it has retained the large impressive plumage that makes it famous. 'Pumila' is a great choice for both commercial and residential applications. As an added bonus, Dwarf Pampas grass is more winter hardy, and can be planted as far north as parts of agricultural zone 5.
   Our most popular ornamental grass, Muhlenbergia capillaries, is a native plant occurring in the wild (especially near Coastal regions) from Massachusetts to Texas. Commonly referred to as Sweet grass or Muhly grass, this plant is historically significant to the culture of the Southeastern United States. Basket weavers along the South Carolina coast are famous for their Sweet grass baskets, which have been hand woven by African American slaves and their descendents for centuries. These baskets, originally produced for utilitarian purposes, are now considered a high form of art. The skill has been passed on from generation to generation, and even now these artisans can be seen hand weaving and marketing their baskets along Highway 17 going into Charleston. This grass has been rapidly disappearing from the wild, but thankfully its use in the home and commercial landscape has kept it from completely disappearing. The compact growth and graceful appearance of Sweet grass foliage makes it invaluable in the landscape, but the delicate pink plumes make it irresistible to most gardeners. These pink plumes appear almost cloud like above the attractive narrow foliage, in a shade often referred to as resembling the color of cotton candy.
   Ornamental grasses make up an important part of today's landscape plant palette. There are few other plant families that offer such outstanding salt, deer, and drought tolerance. The plumes, wonderful to view in the landscape, are also valued as cut flowers for use in the home. Ornamental grasses are easily grown and blend well texturally with other plants. Install them now in your landscape to enjoy months of interest from their fall plumage. 
      Stop by Tropical Nursery at 801 25th av.s. In NMB, SC and add these beautiful grasses to your landscape.

Clumping Bamboo Is
     by Jay Keeter

   It may not be Halloween yet, but I can usually provoke a look of horror from frustrated gardeners by merely mentioning "bamboo". Following the look of horror comes the nightmarish tale of unwanted bamboo achieving dominance over everything else in the yard - monstrously spreading over every bit of dirt in the yard and even coming up between cracks in the sidewalk. This all too common problem can be avoided by using non-invasive (not running) bamboos.
   Clump bamboo develops underground stems that extend only a very short distance from the parent plant before sending up new shoots. Interestingly, the width of the newly emerging stem will achieve its maximum diameter within one month. Clumps increase in size by slowly expanding around the edges. These types of bamboo are generally considered sub-tropical, and Coastal gardeners are the primary growers. Size and hardiness varies as per type of clump bamboo being used. Most of these varieties are evergreen, but there is some dropping of older leaves as plants grow. Proper cultural practices are easily managed by all levels of gardeners. You may install container grown clump bamboo from spring through fall. To get faster growth and bigger size, high nitrogen fertilizers can be used. All bamboo should be watered well until established. Once established, plants are relatively drought tolerant. Clump bamboo will not grow vigorously in very dry soils, nor will it grow in constantly standing water.
   There is good reason to be afraid of running bamboo. Varieties such as Black Cane, Japanese Arrow, and Yellow Groove Bamboo are much too invasive for most homeowners. However, clumping varieties such as Buddha's Belly, Multiplex, Chinese Goddess, and Alphonse Karr are all well behaved in the garden. Clump bamboo develops a fountain-like or vase shape as it matures, with a much wider top than bottom. When planted in groups and clipped, they make screens that will not spread far into surrounding soils. Most clump bamboos are cold hardy into the lower teens. We are fortunate along the coast to be able to grow these plants that inland gardeners are unable to successfully grow outside.
   Multiplex and Alphonse Karr Bamboo are the most commonly available, and perhaps the most dependable of the clumpers. In both of these cases, a controlled height (with some pruning) of 10 to 12 feet is realistic. If untrimmed, these plants may eventually exceed 20 feet tall. Alphonse Karr Bamboo has bright yellow/green striped stems about 1 ½ inches wide. The vertical stripe is obvious and very attractive on older plants, making it one of my favorite plants in the landscape. Multiplex Bamboo develops similar height, but stem width rarely exceeds one half of an inch. Both of these varieties have abundant lacy leaves and add a tropical look to any landscape.
   Chinese Goddess Bamboo has a thin stem and eventually reaches about 10 feet tall. Secondary branching from the main stems is slightly pendulous, but only extends a short distance from the primary stem. This plant is invaluable in creating Oriental landscapes, for use in limited spaces, and can be planted in mass to create mid-size privacy screening.
   Buddha's Belly Bamboo may grow over 20 feet tall in tropical locations, but in our area each season's growth is limited by winter die back. It quickly recovers when warm weather arrives and grows up to around 10 feet during the summer growing season. The name of this bamboo is certainly appropriate. Culms (sections of stems separated by nodes) develop a distinct pear shape resembling a fat belly similar in shape to a fat Buddha- very unique! Often considered a collector's plant due its odd appearance and lack of availability, Buddha's Belly Bamboo is finally becoming more available in the horticultural market.
   Don't make the mistake of planting running bamboo unless you have ample room for it to spread. Often running bamboos become a real problem and can create bad feelings between neighbors when it creeps into other's yards. If you want a tropical landscape, great accent plant, or effective screening, then clump bamboo will be right for you. Be careful not to be fooled by unscrupulous plant sellers with unnamed bamboo varieties. Stop by Tropical Nursery for the right clumping bamboo for your landscape. Visit our nursery at 80125th ave.s. in NMB and add a clumping bamboo to your tropical landscape today.

"Spooktacular" Plants For A
      Halloween Garden

   Do you want the most "spooktacular" yard in the neighborhood this Halloween? A ghoulish gardener may find great joy, or horror, in a themed landscape using diabolically named plant varieties. There is an abundance of such named plants available on today's market whose titles imply a sense of dread. The images inspired by these names may suggest something evil, but in reality most are quiet beautiful in the landscape. To better understand this design theme, imagine a stroll through such a garden.
   With deeply furrowed bark and long limbs stretching out toward you like gnarled fingers, the canopy of Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) creates a dark, dungeon-like setting , a perfect shady location for the un-dead (not zombies, but live plants). Perhaps the weird zigzag stems of Devil's Backbone
( Pedilanthus tithymaloides)
will tempt the garden visitor into entering the grotto of Ghost Ferns (Athyrium species), which cast a silvery sheen upon the ground. This spooky appearance is complemented by the gray, wispy Spanish Moss hanging from overhead, as it performs a ghostly dance with every breeze. Beware of the Crocodile Fern (Microsorium musifolium) that may be lurking in the shadows. Its leathery leaves and veined texture is truly reminiscent of crocodile skin. If you are in this shady garden during early Spring, you may wonder if the red flowers of Blood Lily (Haemanthus multiflorus) are  blood drops left after an encounter with the Crocodile Fern. Upon close inspection of the next plant, you may think this creepy garden has claimed another victim. Heart shaped flowers with protruding petals that suggest the appearance of a heart bursting out with blood has earned Dicentra spectabilis the morbid name of Bleeding Heart. In this landscape, let the superstitious beware of black magic. Black Magic Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic') also lurks in this shady, moist garden.
   As one enters into more dappled light, the terrifying trip continues. Don't be alarmed by the Bloodflower, often going by the alias Butterfly Weed (Asclepias curassavica). The clusters of orange/red flowers are a food source for Monarch butterflies. But you may see more than butterflies here. Next you may be accosted by bats, toads, and spiders. To be more precise, Bat Face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea) may persist in the sun around your ankles or knees. Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirsuta)drifts through the less well lit areas. Spider-ish plants may reach out for you from different directions. Spider lilies (Hymenocallis narcissiflora) could spring up along the border of the garden path. Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) in hanging baskets reach out for you from above.
   At last you are being drawn toward a bright light- it's the sunniest part of this frightening landscape. Even the larger plants seem to be a victim of torture. The twisted Contorted Ligustrum (Ligustrum coriaceum) may only feel comforted by the Weeping Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria 'Pendula'). This part of the garden is inhabited by plants whose names play tribute to other scary characters. Witches, goblins, and the devil himself (or herself) are represented here. Witch Alder (Fothergilla major) and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) may battle it out using the Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa) as a weapon. Also in residence, Goblin Gaillardia (Gaillardia grandflora 'Goblin') has yellow flowers with red edges that may resemble the flames of Hades. Similar hot colors appear on the devil's namesake, Lucifer Canna Lily (Canna X 'Lucifer'). The invasive habit of Lucifer Canna Lily can create real chaos in plant's lives, so embrace this one with caution. All this may be enough to drive the other garden plants insane- particularly in the case of Plum Crazy Hibiscus (Hibiscus X 'Plum Crazy). You may think you've gone a little insane yourself if you wander over and step on a multitude of eyeballs. The groundcover Eyeball Plant (Spilanthes oleracea) has flowers similar in appearance to yellowish eyeballs, and as you look down they may seem to stare back at you.
   As you have progressed through this garden of evil sounding plants, could you have become the unknowing victim of a voodoo curse? This could only have happened if you fell prey to the beautiful flower of Voodoo Amaryllis (Hippeastrum 'Voodoo').  No worries though, the coming winter may put some of these plants to sleep but only until they re-appear in the warming sun of the spring.Happy Halloween from Tropical Nursery of NMB, SC.!

Refresh Your Fall Landscape
              by Jay Keeter

    The last week's cooler weather is nothing more than a tease. Typically, our first frost along the coast occurs the week after Thanksgiving. During this month, your gardening attire may change from T shirts and shorts to sweaters and jeans. Change is also what makes November one of the best months for plant installations. More moderate air temperatures mean less heat stress on plants, yet soil temperatures still support the establishment of new plants. As an added bonus, our rainfall usually increases during the fall/winter, relieving gardeners of some watering responsibilities. It is understandable to associate spring with horticultural tasks, but "spring fever "is quickly followed by summer's hot, dry weather.
   You may be asking yourself "What should I plant now"? A variety of cool season annuals, hardy perennials, evergreen as well as deciduous flowering shrubs and trees will benefit from planting during this month. Your planting activities now can have a beneficial effect on your garden for years to come.
   Shade trees such as Elm, Oak, and Maple will lessen the glare of next summer's hot sun on that patio or deck. Early blooming trees herald the arrival of spring. Flowering Cherry and Red Bud trees produce cheerful pink blooms shortly after the doldrums of winter. Deciduous Magnolias proudly expose their flowers each spring even before becoming covered in leaves. Try Magnolia 'Waterlily', with star shaped fragrant white blooms, or Magnolia 'Jane', whose purple/pink flowers appear as large saucers on limb tips. All of these trees benefit from fall planting.
   A few of our most dependable spring flowering shrubs should be installed now. Old-timey favorites such as Bridal Wreath Spirea, Sweetspire, Azaleas and Camellias are the standard color bearers of southern gardens in the spring. Some of these plants even do double duty: Red Slipper Azalea blooms at least twice per year and Sweetspire not only blooms in spring but also maintains bright red foliage on persistent leaves during much of the winter.
   Many hardy perennials can be planted now for improved performance during next year. Hardy terrestrial orchids (yes- there are orchids that can be grown here, outside, year round) should be installed in shady locations. Coneflowers will thrive in full sun, and daylilies are great anywhere except dense shade. Don't forget about planting those hardy Ginger Lilies for fall flowers with wonderful fragrance. Rain Lilies -so named due to the appearance of flowers after rainfall- are delightful additions to gardens with limited space. Creeping Phlox has been known to bloom as early as January along the coast. By installing this combination of hardy perennials now, the home gardener can enjoy a succession of color during  next year .
   Cool season annuals for our area include flowering herbaceous plants such as violas, pansies, stocks, and snapdragons. Bright, colorful foliage from ornamental cabbage, kale, or red mustard brings constant color to the winter landscape. These types of cool season bedding plants are not very expensive, so don't let money fears keep you from planting plenty. When installed in mass or in groups, winter bedding plants add impressive color to the garden, but often present a  disorganized "hodge podge" effect if insufficient quantities are used. Let's not forget that normally brown turf of winter in our use of winter annuals. Annual winter rye seed will brighten up that lawn through the cold part of the year.
   How fortunate we are at the beach! Not only is fall a good time for planting, but many of us may squeeze in a few rounds of golf as well. With a little imagination, we could almost think of fall as a second spring.
     See these plants and many others at Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. S .in NMB, SC for your fall planting needs.

The Do's & Don'ts of November's Garden
                             by Jay Keeter

   It's no wonder that so many folks are confused about what needs to be done in their landscape during November. There is often a lot of misleading information circulating among gardeners. National brand fertilizer companies make one last push to sell their products before year's end. Neighbors give neighbors the wrong advice. Enthusiastic gardeners may try to fill in a slow time of work by performing tasks that are not appropriate for this time of the year. The confusion is understandable. Who really knows what is right and what is wrong? One of the primary resources available to the public is our local extension agent. Other reliable sources of gardening knowledge include graduates of schools with horticultural programs and state certified technicians in related fields.
   Let's start to correct some of this misinformation by rejecting the idea that winter lawn fertilizers are beneficial to centipede lawns. The correct time for a final application of fertilizer to centipede lawns is late summer. However, those "winterizer" products are often wrongly promoted for use in this area. The increased nitrogen and phosphorous levels of these products contribute to a problem usually referred to as spring dieback. Spring dieback is often misdiagnosed as some type of fungal problem, but it is actually a result of too much fertilizer applied too late in the year.
   Next, let's consider the incorrect pruning advice often passed from neighbor to neighbor. We regularly have customers report no blooms on their camellias, azaleas, and hydrangeas at a time when the same plants are blooming elsewhere. Under further questioning, the homeowner will usually admit to heavy pruning of these shrubs during the fall or winter, performed on advice from a neighbor who also has the same problem. Many spring/early summer flowering shrubs bloom on the previous year's growth. When pruning is necessary, hydrangeas, camellias, and azaleas should be pruned soon after they bloom in the spring. This process allows new growth to develop during the growing season which will support the next year's blooms.
   Perhaps the most offensive pruning each year occurs on crape myrtles and is referred to as "crape murder". Three specific problems are often observed. One problem simply involves pruning too severely. Many horticulturalists advise pruning no more than 1/3 of the total plant height. The next commonly observed problem involves timing. Crape myrtle that is pruned prior to complete winter dormancy may re-sprout just before winter's freezing weather arrives. These freshly sprouted stems do not have time to harden off before the cold delivers its damaging effects, and results in an unpleasant appearance and weak branching. Prune your crape myrtles between late December and the end of February for best results. Another common problem is referred to as "knuckling". The term is accurate since the resulting appearance resembles a gnarled, clenched fist. This problem occurs when crape myrtles are pruned back to the same spot from year to year. To avoid this condition, make your cuts either higher or lower on the stem than the previous year's cuts. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then look closely at the attached picture to better understand the appearance of "knuckling". Similarly to pruning too early, the damaging effects are weak branching and an unpleasant appearance.
   So, what can you do now?  There are many other horticultural tasks that can be performed in the month of November. Use a mulching mower regularly and at a higher setting to grind fallen leaves into small pieces that will eventually be beneficial to your soil composition. If you live in a place with many deciduous trees, wait until most leaves have dropped off and then apply mulch to your beds. If your yard has no significant accumulation of leaf litter in the fall, then apply mulch now. The extra mulch will protect plant roots from dehydration and cooling soil temperatures. Homeowners, golf courses, and local municipalities are currently overseeding their summer grasses with annual rye seed as a way to maintain a green lawn in cool weather. Install those winter annual bedding plants (pansy, viola, snapdragon, ornamental cabbage, kale, and red mustard) now for cool season color. Hardy trees and shrubs are more successful when planted in the fall than in the spring, so install them now.  Spring brings out the best in plants, but fall planting allows them to take to the soil well before summer's hot, dry weather arrives. In our coastal region, gardeners hardly ever have much time off, and November is no exception. During this month clean up those unsightly fallen leaves, get your planting and mulching done, but avoid poor pruning techniques and incorrect chemical applications. 
     Visit Tropical Nursery at 801 25th. ave. S in NMB,SC for professional  landscaping service.
well. With a little imagination, we could almost think of fall as a second spring.
     See these plants and many others at Tropical Nursery, 801 25th Ave. S .in NMB, SC for your fall planting needs.

   Fence Gardens Are Easy Additions To The Landscape
                          By Jay Keeter

   Are you looking for an easy outdoor project with very specific benefits to your landscape? If so, install a fence garden, both for your viewing pleasure and to benefit the environment. You may have seen an example of our state's official Carolina Fence Garden at welcome centers across South Carolina. At welcome center locations, the gardens are a result of the combined efforts of the Garden Club of South Carolina, the State Department of Transportation, the S.C. Wildlife Federation, and our state's Department of Natural Resources. Elements used in these gardens are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also educate viewers. Native plants and hardscapes reflecting South Carolina's heritage are combined in a way that teaches us both historical and environmental lessons.
   The hardscape elements are simple to install. Typically, a section of split rail fence serves as the primary component of your project. The split rail fence was commonly used in the 1800's and 1900's as farmers responded to new laws regulating the control of their livestock. Today, split rail fencing is used primarily for ornamental reasons. You do not need to fence in your entire yard- simply installing one straight section, or enclosing a corner in your yard with 2 sections at right angles is sufficient. Other necessary hardscape elements include a source of water (bird bath, water garden, fountain), a habitat for birds (wren house, bluebird house, martin gourd, etc.), and locally mined rock. Often blue granite is used since this rock is abundant in most of S.C. and is the official state rock. On a more local level, coquina rocks (often embedded with fossilized sea shells) could be used and is excavated in Horry County at many open pit mines. In cooler weather you may see butterflies warming themselves on the reflected heat from these rocks.
   Native and naturalized plants can be used to attract butterflies and birds. Some native plants also reflect various aspects of our state heritage. Your plant list should include our state flower, the yellow flowering Carolina Jessamine. This semi-evergreen vine can be allowed to climb and twine around the split rail fence. The use of Sweetgrass provides interesting color with its showy pink plumes, and this ornamental grass is also historically significant to Lowland culture. Even today you may find descendants of slaves continuing the centuries old tradition of weaving Sweetgrass baskets. Other plants with attractive flower or fruit can be used to bring butterflies and birds into your garden. You may even attract the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, with its yellow, black and blue pattern of colors. This beautiful species is not only the official state butterfly, but it also serves as a pollinator in orchards and gardens. Other flowering plants that are either native or have become naturalized in the Americas can be used to attract wildlife to this themed garden. Plants such as Black Eye Susan, Creeping Phlox, Passion Vine, Gaillardia, Joe Pye Weed, Coneflower, and Bee Balm are appropriate choices. If you have nearby brush piles, trees, and logs, then they will provide cover for the more elusive animal species as they fly in and out of your fence garden.
   By providing food, water, and habitat for wildlife with a fence garden, you will reap marvelous benefits for yourself and for Mother Nature. Parents, grandparents, and educators can use a fence garden to educate children about South Carolina's heritage and the relationship between plants, animals and their surrounding environment. Don't delay- along the South Carolina coast fall is the best time of the year to install these hardy plants, and the results will amaze you for years to come.
   Stop by Tropical Nursery at 801 25th ave.S. in NMB,SC for your fence garden plants, or to have us install a fence garden in your yard.

  Choosing the Right Christmas Tree
           by Jay Keeter

   It's that time of year again! Christmas quickly approaches and the "to do" list keeps getting longer for most of us. Selecting the perfect Christmas tree should be at the top of your list- and buying one early has its advantages. Most tree vendors buy their seasonal stock in one order, usually hoping to sale out within a few weeks. Well, at least the best trees will be gone within the first few weeks. So don't delay or you may end up with one of those infamous "Charlie Brown" Christmas trees.
   Where your tree is grown makes a difference in how well it holds up once you put it in your home. Tree farms in Canada and the northeastern United States start cutting and baling trees more than a month before Thanksgiving. These trees are then stored in a cool location until shipping. When these trees reach the South, our warm weather quickly takes a toll on them. At one time, the use of Canadian trees was very common throughout the southeastern United States. More recently, North Carolina grown Frasier Firs have become the most commonly sold cut trees for use in our area. The result has been a great improvement in freshness, fragrance, and customer satisfaction. For the highest quality trees, consumers should purchase freshly cut Frasier Firs grown in the North Carolina mountains. It is a win-win situation. Homeowners receive a top quality product and Carolina tree farmers remain in business. If you would like the experience of cutting your own tree, then seek out nearby tree farms growing Virginia Pine, Red Cedar, or Carolina Sapphire Cypress (a Clemson University introduction). You may also find these and other appropriate varieties available at local nurseries in containers, which can be planted in your yard after Christmas. Sorry- it is just too hot along the coast to grow those beautiful Frasier Firs.
   To acquire the freshest trees, we recommend shopping with smaller local independent retailers. Grocery stores and big box stores order such large quantities that cutting trees must begin earlier to have them delivered to all their locations on a timely schedule. Smaller businesses are able to have their orders cut on demand, usually just a day or two before delivery. Both service and tree quality are superior at these independent retailers. Caleb Wiggins, at Palmettoscapes Landscaping Supply, offers freshly cut trees from 6 to 12 feet tall, ranging from $25.00 to $95.00. Competitive pricing and delivery options make shopping here easy for homeowners. Paul Roberts, at Cactus Sands Garden Center and Florist, not only offers high quality freshly cut trees, but will also install the tree in one of their sturdy, reusable tree stands. These types of services make the shopping experience much easier for homeowners who may have trouble transporting or mounting their tree in a sturdy stand. At either of these two local retail locations, you will be buying a tree that was cut only a few days before Thanksgiving. At a time when shopping local and supporting small business is important to the local economy, this is an opportunity for you to do both and get a superior product at the same time.
   Once you have made the decision regarding which tree to purchase, the bottom should be re-cut before it is put into the tree stand. Many tree vendors offer this service at the tree lot. After you get the tree inside your home, there are several steps you should take to maintain tree freshness. Always place the tree away from vents, heaters, or fireplaces. Refill the water in your tree stand frequently. Use low heat bulbs for decorating the tree- the old fashioned hotter bulbs both use more energy and dry out your tree more quickly.
   I am not trying to make anyone panic, but Christmas is less than a month away. Now is the time to pick out a tree that will be the centerpiece of your Christmas decorations. Perhaps the only thing more pleasing than the fragrance and beauty of your Christmas tree will be the sight of presents as they accumulate beneath those Frasier Fir boughs. Of course, that is only if you have been a good boy or girl during this past year!