Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Where has Backyard Getaway gone?

Backyard Getaway is alive & well. We are officially moved in at "Fort Getaway". In case you hadn’t heard we were offered a wonderful opportunity to move our home & business to a property in Myakka City. I know it seems like we had disappeared over the last couple of months but, Dave, the guys & I have been spending all our free time making the new place beautiful again all the while working on pond installations, regular maintenance jobs, our pond tour & of course moving. We had no intentions to move from the home we have lived in for the last 23 years or to move our business once again, but, sometimes an opportunity is too good to pass up.

Almost two years of sitting empty had turned the property into a jungle or as our vet said last week..."The place looks like Jurassic Park". We are not yet ready for visitors but we are working on it. The new property is 5.5 acres & has two natural spring fed ponds, a cement turtle pond in an aviary, a building for our store front/warehouse, horse barns & other out buildings along with our house which has skylights in every room & an amazing screened in porch that wraps around all four sides of the house. The property has an 8’ high stockade fence around it giving it the feel of a fort, hence the name Fort Getaway.

It's been an interesting adventure so far. We have uncovered cement slabs & pole barns that we didn't know were there, we adopted a horse & pony who decided to take a walk & meet the neighbors two days after arriving at their new home, we survived two weeks with no house phone, no cell service, no internet and best of all, I've been introduced to some of the largest & strangest bugs I have ever seen in my life. Did I mention we are also getting goats? Ah, farm living! Seriously, there are spiders & grass hoppers as big as your hand! Yes, I know I work outside with plants; I should be used to bugs. Anyone who knows me knows how much I "love" bugs, so much so that the guy at the Do-it-yourself pest shop in Bradenton is now my new best friend. At least the bugs are worked out of the phones.

Waste Pro, on the other hand, isn't too happy with us. During the first round of clean up there was so much yard waste, construction debris & odd trash items set out by the road that it took four truck loads to remove it all. Guess what, there is still more. Round two has started but this time it's only yard waste. Here is an interesting fact you may not know... in Manatee county you get one free "extraordinary" pick up a year. No matter how much stuff or how big the pile they will take it all. Of course you have to separate the yard waste from the household waste.

Along with the trees trimmed, the property mowed & the house cleaned & painted we have managed to clean out the fossilized manure from the main barn & fix up the aviary. The turtle pond in the aviary is now home to six red eared sliders, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Rafael, Splinter & Shredder, all named by our grandson after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of course. The main stable barn will be used for the horses who are adjusting nicely to their new home. Both of the natural ponds are spring fed which is great for keeping our Water Lilies & Koi. The larger pond at the back of the property will house our Lilies & allow us to keep more available for our customers. Dave is in the process of renovating the smaller front pond which can be seen from the front windows of our house. He added a fountain to the pond and made it wider & deeper. He plans to add a waterfall, bridge & dock to the pond in the near future. Meanwhile, our Koi love their new home filled with spring water instead of tap water, even if the water is a bit muddy. We will still offer Koi for sale. One of the pole barns will house the holding tanks from our old location. There is also a plan for a veggie/herb garden. For now, I am happy to be able to look out my office window & see the Oak tree filled with song birds & just beyond that the water from the fountain splashing on the pond instead of the field of dog fennel that was there just two weeks ago.

Backyard Getaway

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941-752-POND (7663)

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Potting Water Lilies


To me a water garden isn’t a water garden without Water Lilies. There are so many choices…Tropical, Hardy, day bloomers, night bloomers, pinks, purples, blues, yellows… that one is never enough. Water lilies & aquatic plants are easy to grow as long as you follow a few basic steps for potting and repotting.

The most asked lily question I receive from my customers is…what should I plant my Lily in? Commercial potting soils are unsuitable because they contain bark, percolate, etc. that will muck up the water & can float out of the pot. There are good commercial pond planting media available, some even have added beneficial bacteria, but the easiest & least expensive planting media for lilies is Kitty litter. Yes, that’s right, kitty litter. Kitty litter is essentially clay which will hold the nutrients & beneficial bacteria & will not float out of the pot. You can also use a heavy loam top soil or a mixture of both. Make sure the kitty litter is non scented & non clumping.

Plastic, cloth or clay pots at least ten inches across are best to use to accommodate the fast growing water lily. Remember the smaller the pot the smaller the lily. I prefer the cloth pot as it will conform to the bottom of your pond & will not tip over. Fill the pot with your planting media leaving a “hole” for the tuber. Plant hardy lilies against the side of the container at a 45-degree angle with the crown out of the soil a bit and pointed towards the center. Tropical lilies are planted in the center of the pot, be sure to leave the crown exposed. Add soil around the tuber & roots, then top off the soil layer with a half-inch of sand. If you have fish you can use gravel in place of sand to hold the soil in place, again, being careful to keep the gravel away from the growing crown.

Lilies are very heavy feeders so it is important to fertilize them starting in the spring & through out the growing season. Pond plant fertilizers come in liquids, tabs, granules & time release stakes. The stakes are the easiest to use, just make a hole near the edge of the pot in the soil & push stake in. Most time release stakes last a year but in Florida we recommend you change out the stakes in the late summer too. If you prefer a monthly fertilizer, the tabs would be your best choice. Personally, I don’t care for the liquid version unless you have quite a few plants. Granules work well when you are planting new or transplanting a lot of plants since they can be mixed into the soil.

Planting depth is an important factor to growth. You should place your lilies in the pond from 12” to 24” deep for the best growth & the most blooms. Some lilies can go as deep as 30” or more, like the Big Blue Gigantia, but remember the deeper you plant them the more energy they will take to get to the surface creating smaller leaves & less blooms. When planting new tubers or small lilies you should start the plant with about 6 inches of water above the crown, lowering to 12 inches after a couple of weeks. The lilies in your pond should be transplanted each spring. If you have them in a large pot it is ok to re-use the same pot using fresh planting media & fertilizer. Hardy water lilies should be divided every two or three years depending on the plant container size. Don’t forget the wider the pot the larger the plant. Whatever you do, don’t place the Lily close to rushing, moving water. Calm, still areas of the pond where they are not subject to splash is best for your Lily.

Water lilies crave sunshine. Make sure that they receive at least 5-6 hours of full direct sunlight daily. Some varieties, however, will bloom with as little as 3-4 hours of full sun & the Dauben will actually tolerate some shade. Follow these easy steps & you will be rewarded with big beautiful blooms all season long.


Backyard Getaway

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Toxic plants in the garden

Spring is just around the corner & soon it will be time to start thinking about pruning & replacing the plants in our gardens that didn’t survive the winter. We’ve talked about the importance of using Native Plants in the garden & how some plants are edible, but did you know that many common garden & water garden plants are toxic? Some of these commonly used plant species can be harmful to our pets as well as to humans. House plants can also be dangerous. Toxic houseplants include elephant ear, philodendrons, English Ivy, Amaryllis & the peace lily to name a few. Remember if they are toxic to us or our pets they will also be toxic to our Koi. Plants that are not toxic to humans may still be a problem for your pond fish. The seeds of most plants will swell in the pond & if your Koi eat the seeds they could plug up the digestive tract. Don’t panic, you don’t have to start ripping plants out of your yard & pond. If you have children or pets you could transplant these plants to an area out of reach. Of course, it’s also important to keep an eye on small children & curious pets while they are in your garden. As for the pond, all you need to do is make sure the toxic plants are out of reach from the Koi. Before you make your wish list of new plants for your garden you may want to consider the list below. These are just a few of the more common toxic garden plants, some of which you will recognize as pond plants. Keep in mind this is just a partial list using common names & the part of the plant that is known to be toxic.

Plant    Part                          Plant     Part

Amaryllis: bulbs                       Black Locust Bark: sprouts, foliage

Bird of Paradise: seeds        Buttercup: sap, leaves

Baneberry berries, roots       Cherry: bark, twigs, leaves & pits

Calla Lily: leaves                    Coral plant; seeds

Daffodil: bulbs                        Eggplant: everything but the fruit itself

English Ivy: berries                 Elephant Ears: leaves, stem

Foxglove: leaves, seeds       Hemlock: all parts

Hyacinth: bulbs                       Iris: bulbs

Jasamine: berries                 Java Bean: uncooked bean

Lantana: immature berries   Laurel: all parts

Locoweed: all parts              Mistletoe: berries

Mock orange: fruit                 Morning Glories: all parts

Oak: acorns, foliage             Pine: sap

Poinsettia leaves, flowers     Potato eyes, new roots

Redwood sap                        Rhubarb: leaves

Snapdragon: all parts            Tiger lily: all parts

Tomato: leaves                      Tulip: bulbs


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Friday, January 15, 2010

Surviving frost damage in the garden

Surviving frost damage in the garden

Over the past two weeks, we have had record low temperatures here in sunny Florida. You have probably stepped outside on more than one morning to ice on your car windshield & a blanket of frost on the ground. The first thing I thought of when I heard the forecast was I had better start covering my landscape plants.


Chances are if you covered your plants as I did you will notice that some of your plants still sustained damage. If the air temperature reaches below 28 degrees, your plants will have some damage regardless. One of the reasons for this is because the soil temperature will be colder than the air temperature. Another factor is how the plants were covered. If you lay a blanket or tarp over the entire plant and the cover is directly touching the plant there will still be damage. It is also important to remove the cover during the day so the plant can warm up. Like most of you, I am to busy to cover & uncover 100 plants everyday for two weeks, so, my plants remained covered.


Some plants tolerate frost & cooler temperatures better than others do. The age and general health of the plant will play a factor in whether or not your plants will survive. Popular plants that usually are killed or damaged by frost include annuals, impatiens, marigolds, coleus & some sub-tropical like hibiscus, citrus & bougainvillea. However, do not give up just yet. Any plant that is still alive will attempt to recover. Many of your perennial plants like salvia & begonias will die back but the roots can survive the winter only to re-sprout in the spring. Same goes for bulb plants like lilies & iris. Even if a plant has lost all of its woody parts, it can re-grow from the root or stem tissue. If you did not think to cover your plants in time or you have frost damage here are some tips to helping your plants survive.


Resist the urge… to prune that is!

With a yard full of damaged, dead looking plants the gardener’s first instinct is to prune. Don’t do it! The damaged leafs can work as an insulator for further damage and will serve as a starting point for new growth in the spring. In fact, heavy pruning can stimulate new growth that could be damaged again if, heaven forbid, we get another cold snap. If the neighborhood association is complaining it’s ok to clean the plants up a little but be sure to leave some of the damage intact.

Hydration is key but no feeding please!

Keep your plants well watered. This may be the most important factor in saving your damaged plants. Windy days will dry up the soil and the frost on the leaf will actually pull water from the leaf causing dehydration. Water your plants but do not fertilize them until spring once they have resumed active growth.


What about my pond plants?

The same rules apply for your pond plants, no pruning or fertilizing. They will actually have a better chance of survival because the water temperature is generally warmer than air temperature & the plants will be well hydrated from the pond water.


Come spring when the weather warms, look for new growth & start pruning. If a plant is truly dead, don’t be too upset. That just means you have an excuse to buy new plants for your garden.



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Let us create your perfect backyard getaway!

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