A closer look at 'lucky nut,' a relative of oleander
Q: Can you help identify this plant? We originally bought it several years ago at a flea market and, up until two years ago, it sat on my deck in a pot. It's just a little tree that never grew much, but had pretty blossoms all summer. We planted it in the ground and it grew quite a bit that summer but then was damaged by frost.
We cut it back to almost ground level and it has turned into more of a bush. It flowers even in the heat and has now developed some sort of fruit or nut (several on the bush). Diane Chase
A: You are the proud owners of lucky nut, Thevetia peruviana, a very close relative of oleander. The sweetly fragrant flowers bloom yellow to peach most of the year and, as you mentioned, it is tender to cold temperatures much below freezing, but will come back from its base. It will grow from a beautiful small tree to 15 feet if freezing temperatures are not an issue. Like the oleander, plant parts are toxic, so don't eat the not so "lucky nuts."
Vine bears inedible fruit
Q: I just bought and moved into a house in Valrico. At the back fence line, beside the Podocarpus, I found a "vine" climbing the fence with the attached fruit. Can you identify it? I've never seen it before. Devon Preidis
A: Your pictured mystery plant is creeping or climbing fig, Ficus pumila. There are two types of foliage: vegetative growth with small, oval leaves that cling to the wall and much larger leaves that come off of the wall toward you, the flowering/fruiting growth. The flower is inconspicuous and the fruit that is pictured is an inedible fig hanging from the fruiting growth.
All Ficus spp. belong to the same family (Moraceae) as the edible fig, Ficus carica, hence the fig type fruit on your ornamental Ficus pumila.
Try these snail-snuffing strategies
Q: I am writing you hoping you can help me with a problem I have in my garden. I have snails all over my vegetable garden and flower garden. What can I do to get rid of them? Carmen Bonello, New Port Richey
A: Where there is ample moisture and a food source, snails can become problematic in the garden. A combination of strategies is usually necessary to achieve control.
The first is switching from an overhead watering system to drip or low-flow irrigation, reducing moist areas. Next would be to do some trapping. Moisten an area, take some thin 12-inch by 15-inch boards (something light and manageable), place atop of some 1-inch runners, creating a snail hut, and distribute in various areas of the garden. Snails will attach themselves under the wood. Scrape them off and crush them, and replace the board for another haul.
Then scatter some snail bait uniformly throughout your garden areas, following label directions. Choose baits with iron phosphate as the active ingredient, such as Sluggo and Escar-go, because they are very safe to use if dogs or cats are a part of the household. Baits containing metaldehyde are faster acting, but are toxic, especially to dogs, and shouldn't be used in vegetable gardens.