Choose Florida-friendly vines for a garden arbor
Q: What is a good replacement for plants that did not survive the cold winter just past? We have an arbor that had a good growth of peach blush vinca that is no more! Do you have a suggestion for a hardy, vining, flowering replacement? My goal is to place baskets of orchids under the shaded area.
Karon Laird, Palm Harbor
A: 'Tis the season to try something new. Following are some arbor ideas.
• Cross vine (Bignonia capreolata) is native to north Florida. It blooms right now with orange-yellow tubular flowers and is evergreen.
• Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is a rampant grower, deciduous for a short time in late winter and has 3-inch tubular flowers — similar to cross vine — spring through summer. It is also native all over the state.
These two natives, planted together, cover an arbor quickly and become woody, creating quick shade. They are both hardy and also produce a great spring-summer flower show. Prune as necessary to keep them in bounds.
• Painted trumpet (Clytostoma callistegioides) is evergreen, with bright shiny leaves and lavender flowers in profusion in the spring, and it grows equally as fast.
• Flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta), one of the most spectacular winter flowering vines, blankets its support structure with dense foliage and orange flowers.
• And, of course, if you want to attract hummingbirds, try our native coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). It is evergreen, with orange-scarlet flowers spring through summer. It is a bit more dainty and a tad slower-growing than the others, but has a longer blooming period.
Or you could grow grapes and make wine. With choices like these, you may need more than one arbor!
Tips for successfully growing tomatoes
Q: I would love to grow a tomato plant or two. I have tried many times in different yards, and each time I plant one it seems to grow quite strongly for a few weeks (looking very healthy), then I either find the plant chopped off at the base or it gets straggly and quits growing and the lower leaves start disappearing. Can you help me get my tomato plants to grow to a healthy full and prosperous end?
Kristin Carson, Dunedin
A: An archenemy of young tomatoes is the cut worm (a large, ground-dwelling caterpillar). You can purchase cut worm bait at your local garden center, then scatter according to label directions. You may also want to grow your tomatoes in large containers with a good greenhouse growing mix and skip a lot of soil-borne problems. Grow well and prosper!
Adonidia palms might not survive freeze
Q: We have an adonidia palm that was hurt by the freezing temps this winter. We cut the fronds off but don't see any sign of life. Any idea how we can tell if it is living?
Bob Atkins, Tampa
A: Adonidia palms (Adonidia merrillii, commonly called Christmas palm) took a big hit this year. If you pull on the center spear (the newest frond) and it pops out easily, the palm is probably dead. The other method to check for viability is to wait and see. If the crown begins to smell foul, you'll have your answer. A good replacement that is petite and very cold hardy is the European fan palm, Chamaerops humilis, a much under-used palm.