Got a green thumb?
If you’ve recently moved to the South Florida area and want to know about gardening in the (sub)tropics, now is the time, and the place is Mounts Botanical Garden.
Presented by Mounts Botanical Garden docent, holistic landscape designer and UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscape Award winner Nada Vergili, the “Newcomer’s Guide to Gardening in South Florida” can help you get up to speed.
With a deep passion for gardening and creating landscapes, Vergili will teach participants which plants thrive in a sub-tropical climate, how to improve soil quality, what to plant in the sun/shade (or a little bit of both), and how to avoid common mistakes people make when moving to South Florida.
The No. 1 thing Vergili recommends is actually the UF/IFAS (University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) golden rule: “Right plant, right place.”
Many people moving to this area have their hearts set on species they love from back home, Vergili said. Many of those plants, however, just don’t fare well in a sub-tropical climate.
With enough work, some northern plants can survive in our area — but that it’s like putting a “square peg in a round hole,” she said.
Instead, when a South Florida newbie has their heart set on something from up north, Vergili will suggest something similar that is either native to our area or can thrive here.
Vergili points to the northern lilac and hydrangea as examples. Several southern lilac species do well in South Florida and can be subbed for their northern counterparts. As for the hydrangea, she recommends substituting with dombeya elegans.
Some of this homesickness for foliage of their former locales is usually eased or eliminated by the incredible variety of plants that do grow well in South Florida.
Vergili said that plants including ponytail palms, triangle palms, heliconia, ginger (especially variegated), passion vine and jade vine are some of the species that generate the most oohs and ahs.
In addition to the variety of shapes and colors of foliage that thrives in South Florida, newcomers are also amazed at the number of plants and trees that produce edible fruit.
From the more familiar mango, carambola (star fruit), papaya, banana, green avocado and pineapple to the slightly more exotic (and gigantic) jackfruit or chocolate pudding fruit (a type of persimmon), newcomers are usually quite impressed.
People are awe-inspired by the shapes, colors and fruit-producing ability of many plants in South Florida. As for the number of insects … not so much.
Vergili said there are over 12,000 species in our area.
Despite that fact, she said a well-balanced yard can be maintain even when a plant gets munched on by insects.
So get some knowledge, conquer any fears you may have and start gardening the South Florida way!
In addition to helping bring newcomers up to speed on gardening in South Florida, the class also includes a walking tour of the gardens.
Besides instructing several classes at Mounts, Vergili is also available to guide private tours of the gardens.
What: “A Newcomer’s Guide to Gardening in South Florida”
Where: Mounts Botanical Garden, 531 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach
When: 10 to 11:30 am June 9
Cost: Members $10, nonmembers $15
Information: www.mounts.org/event/newcomers-guide-to-gardening; 561-233-1757
Eddie Ritz is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He has lived in the West Palm Beach area for more than 30 years and, from mild to wild, will cover noteworthy community happenings. He can be reached at email@example.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.