If you could plant this, would you?

FLneedsTREESFebruary 4, 2005

Hi everyone. I'm trying to get to the bottom of a little debate that has been lingering in the Florida Gardening forum for some time.

If you've ever been to South Florida, you know that what is planted is entirely exotic tropicals, palm trees and some evergreen oaks (simply because they are required by some cities). It's not a shady place, when a subdivision or shopping center goes in, the native vegetation, much of which is found in northern states, is completely cleared and replaced with palm trees and tropical shrubs. When you go into a Home Depot garden center in South Florida, you do not find red maples or other common garden trees even though they are native to the area, but instead you find ficus, palms etc. As a result, people assume deciduous trees and soforth do not grow there and should they come across one in the winter time, they think it's a dead tree. Not only that a large list of exotics have escaped cultivation and become uncontrolable pest plants that are found everywhere you look.

It's hard to notice a change in seasons in South Florida and one belief from a former northern resident in the forum is that it's better to have a winter that's green and full of life rather than a gloomy, dismal, grey and lifeless northern landscape. I respect that opinion although I do not agree with that and I think the people of south florida are missing out by not experiencing a change of seasons and/or having deciduous trees planted.

But what do I know? That's just my opinion, right? So I'm trying to find out if that opinion is shared by anyone else or if I truly am an oddball.

So the question is, if exotic tropical plants and palm trees would grow in your city or town, would you prefer to have them over the deciduous trees that are so common in your area. That way your city or town would have the tropical feel of Miami all year long. And it would be green in the winter but not so green in the summer. Or would you keep things the way they are?

By the way, it has to be one way or the other. You can't have a mix of both, it doesn't work that way.

Thanks for responding. Your replies are helpful.

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Hmmmm, deciduous, deciduous, decidous. I vote for all four seasons. I love them all (except for hot hot summers).

    Bookmark   February 4, 2005 at 8:56PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

Deciduous here too. Tropicals are nice for house plants but outside, i'd keep what we have now.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2005 at 9:41PM
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karen_w(5 MI)

Hell, no, I wouldn't want tropicals! I LOVE fall in Michigan. Crisp days and brilliant colors. If they could bottle the smell of leaves burning, I'd wear it.
And then there's spring...crocus,tulips, daffodils, hyacinths. Who could give THAT up?
And winter. No gardening work to be done. Curl up with a good book and a hot chocolate.
No way I'd change. P.S. You're not the one who's weird. K.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 5:43PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

Well I for one would vote for full of life rather than a gloomy, dismal, grey and lifeless northern landscape ;)

Oh how I would love to grow a palm and a virginia oak in my yard. I also would love to pick a fresh orange off a tree and not have to buy them in the grocery store.

Got a ticket for me? ;)


    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 9:34PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

Sounds like you're going to be a snowbird someday, Sharon!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 10:45PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

I've hated palm trees from day one.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2005 at 8:12AM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

I know you said we couldn't have it both ways, but this is my honest feeling.

If palm trees by chance, we hardy enough to be grown in zone 3, I would probably want a few, for novelties sake. But not at the expense of giving up my "northern" deciduous plants.

Then again, if everyone starting planting them and other tropicals here, then I guess maples, elms, etc would be novelty plants.

I assume in your scenario, we would still get winter? A palm tree surrounded by mounds of snow might look cool. Actually, I think they have one at the local casino, though it's obviously an artificial palm tree.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2005 at 10:32AM
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freezengirl(3aMN and 5AK)

My thoughts are that it is usually best to work with your natural envirionment, not against it. I love our deciduous trees for the beauty they give us when they have their leaves, and when they loose them. I love them for the bounty they give us too, shade in the summer, room for the winter suns rays to reach us and mulch for the soil and all the organisms that depend on it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2005 at 10:07PM
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daylady(3b mb ca)

I like the 4 seasons , brilliant colors of deciduous trees in autumn, spring flowers, hot summers, and even trees with no leaves in winter have a special look. Of course I like travelling south for a break from the cold too!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 1:45PM
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ingami(z3b AB)

As much as I find winter tiresome, I still have to say that wherever a person lives, it's the nicest if you have your native vegetation. I sure would miss our "leaf droppers" around here. And we have such wonderful native evergreens too.
I know it would be fun to have a few tropicals or semi-tropicals in the yard, but I'd have to go with our native plantings if I had to choose-
Faith in Alberta

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 9:44AM
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Wow! I can't believe how many responses there have been. Thank You all for chiming in. I know it seems like a silly or obvious question but judging by the opinions I got in the Florida gardening forum, I really wanted to know what the rest of the country thought. I guess I understand now why I find other states to have more beautiful land and streetscapes.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 2:15PM
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shapiro(5a Ontario)

I find that one of the joys of being a gardener and travelling is meeting other gardeners and finding out what's happening in their backyard. There's no such thing as the perfect climate, right? I met the UBC garden guy, David Tarrant, a few years ago, and he pointed out that though many Canadian gardeners think it would be wonderful to garden in BC, in fact, they have their difficulties too, like weeks and even months of steady rain... ugggg!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2005 at 9:06PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

I live in New York, but have spent a lot of time in Ontario. I prefer to see trees that change with the four seasons. In winter the bare trees look like sculpture and you can see birds, and even old birds nests, more clearly. Spring in nice too, seeing trees in bud and then leafing out. One of the great plasures of my life is leaning out my bedroom window in April and seeing branches of lilacs blooming. Then there's fall, with the golds oranges and reds. Right now, in mid February, we had a big snow a few weeks back, but it's mostly melted. I started some seeds indoors to cheer myself up. But I do like deciduous trees. I spent some time in Texas, all I remember are cactus plants and bottlebrushes. I asked if they would grow in NY, and was given a strong "No way". The one place I'd love to visit is Hawaii. Wouyldn't it be loverly?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2005 at 2:49PM
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Woody_Canada(~USz5 - Canada)

Why does it have to be one or the other?! In the north we don't just have deciduous trees - we have evergreens too! The winter landscape is barer but green is there in both coniferous and broadleafed forms. And other colors - e.g. red stems from red twig dogwood; yellow from yellow twig dogwood; lime green from Kerria stems and so on... A northern winter landscape is about shape and form and, yes, color! So why can't a winter Florida winter landscape have a variety of things? (I've never been to Florida, winter or any season, so what do I know about it?!)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2005 at 8:39PM
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casper1(5/6- -10F Ont)

Oh well here's my two cent's worth, I am growing bananas (3), albizzia, paulonia,bamboo(3var.)chinese gingers, southern magnolias, and a few other "can't grow here" plants, and I'm having fun right in Z6 Toronto, bring on the seasonal changes, variety is the spice of life, it took me 70 yrs. to learn that, you can have that for free.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 3:59PM
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mary_rockland(USDA4 Ottawa)

From a northern point of view I find your topic absolutely fascinating. I've always been so jealous of all those camelias blooming in January and the like that I've not thought that there could ever be lack or monotony in such abundant climates. I adore the tropical look of palm trees, but partly because they are exotic. When I see them I am somewhere new and exciting. Don't we all love seeing different climates and vegetation. It wouldn't fit into my garden scheme.

It goes to show that diversity is really important, and that no matter where you live, keeping some of the natural vegetation feels right. I work in outdoor education teaching kids about different kinds of trees and plants. There is so much beauty and variety in the leaves and bark and needles, and flowers of the most common trees and shrubs. (Not to mention the moss and lichens and ferns and wildflowers). There's also an indescribable beauty in a tree, nearly any tree that has reached a ripe old age and has achieved a maturity of form.

I just adore old wild apple trees. They have such a full rounded shape whether they bloom or not. Oaks can have that great pyramidal top. Of course I could never forget the white pine. Lovely long needles, that are soft in your hand. Basswood have incredible large heart shaped leaves. But I do enjoy the "unnative" catalpa which has even larger heart shaped leaves and those orchid shaped flowers.

When I visited Louisiana I could never forget those live oaks (I thought that name rather a joke). Another southern charm I found there was that mystical moss hanging from the trees. What a magical feeling!

Fancy ornamentals are fine, but let's not let the beautiful natives become extinct no matter where we live!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 10:23PM
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FLneedsTREES, I think your question is actually really quite an intereting one and shows a good depth of thinking on your part. Though, I do find the question a hard one to answer! I do love the change of seasons with the trees and shrubs bursting forth in flower and leaf and of course, experiencing the sights and smells of glorious autumn ... gee, I think I'd really MISS that aspect! Here my winters are all too LONG ... and being able to enjoy lush tropical foliage and color year round ... well, that's mighty tempting to me! Yes, I'd take trees with leaves 12 months of the year rather than going seven months without! I'd soon adjust to sweeping the snow off my palms and gardenias! Terry

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 1:51AM
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I would give up my apple tree for a coconut tree anyday, my maple for a pineapple cactus, my birch for a banana tree.. oh yes, i WOULD trade deciduous for tropicals.. ask me again in the fall tho when the snow isnt coming down like it wont ever stop.....

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 2:35PM
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purple(z4b ontario)

Hi all I've read through all the threads posted by FLneeds trees,she said that there use to be native trees like some of ours. So my answer is -find a resource and get planting!
You can order from any where in the world for the right zone and if you buy only whips(small started trees)they are very cheap,also they come with a garentee.Never know maybe with a exchange you can get them as a swop.(not sure about the border thing,probly have to be bare root)It's worth looking into .
Good luck Purple

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 9:33PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Why not have both.I've grown banana, brugs and other tropicals on my paio and garden along with our natives.

I, too, love the fall and the smell of woodsmoke and leaves burning.

I wouldn't want to trade the birch trees.

But I'd love to live in a climate where the ground doesn't freeze and the pond stays open all year.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 3:28PM
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I could NEVER give up the smell of Balsam Fir, with its aromatic needles in the dead of winter.

Then again....wouldn't I give anything to be able to grow Agave Americana permanently in the ground instead of a pot.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2005 at 2:08PM
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bflack(z4a NY)

As much as I love tropicals, they would look out of place on my Northern NY property. I love my sugar maples! I enjoy tropicals so much because I only see them 5 or 6 weeks a year at my place in Florda. I was in Florida last week and I noticed the non tropical trees looked sick. Many had no leaves, only spanish moss. Even the non tropicals with leaves on the looked bad. Any reason? Also, what is the name of the tree that has large stumps like banyon trees but have smaller leaves? I enjoy those trees along with the banyons. One more question? What is the name of the non tropical tree that is now blooming with feathery red flowers ??

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 10:02AM
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I couldn't give up my palm trees. I can see the beauty in a northern climate but I just love the tropical look. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley which is just outside of Los Angeles and twenty miles from Hollywood and we have the best of both worlds in the sense that we have deciduous trees as well as tropical trees, bananas, hibiscus, birds of paradise, king palms, queen palms, mexican fan palms, california fan palms, majesty palms, jelly palms, date palms, bougainvillea, schefflera, bamboo,avocado, orange and lime trees, tree ferns, plumeria,jasmine, poinsettia, jacaranda trees oak trees, maple trees, birch, ash etc. You can grow almost anything near the coast to about 40 miles inland. I like having green trees in winter as well as flowers. I just had a red bloom on my camellia which isn't a tropical plant, as well as bird of paradise. I now live in a place that gets significantly colder than where I used to live and I REALLY miss the mild winters where the lows don't go below the 40's at night. Growing up I thought that was cold! I've since learned that is balmy compared to many parts of the country.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 2:15AM
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I actually lived in Texas the first 23 years of my life and the heat was so bad by end of May, the grass would burn and dry up, you could not walk or bike, it was too hot...Only plants growing in the summer were the hardy, drought resistant desert plants and some tropicals..No lilies, daylilies, daises..About the only thing you could do was lie in a swimming pool for the next 5 months....You could not grow many bulbs: daf, tulips, crocuses, hyacinths..The "low temps" for August are 88-90 degrees in the shade!Move back and miss the outdoor splendors of New England?...Never...Steph

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 6:48PM
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BarKnCalgary(z3 AB.CA)

Wow! You guys have made me realize that I do have it all. It's never a dull moment here in Calgary - it can be 20 C today & -5 C tonight. Sure keeps a person on her toes when the garden is growing. The neighbours get a good laugh watching the family running arround in the stinging hail covering the orange, lemon, grapefruit, bird of paradise, fig & laurel. The calamondin oranges make up into the BEST marmalade. When we had the fence down a while back a neighbour driving by noticed the orange tree & said to himself, "What's wrong with them? Don't they know we have winter?" So, in the winter, when it's 40 below & too cold to ski in the majestic rockies, I can sit with a book, among all my darlings, in the glorious sunshine! Too bad I couldn't figure out how to attach a Christmas picture to show you our tropical Calgary home. Victoria Day is this weekend, so it's almost moving outside day. Yahoo!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 6:01PM
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lioninthelake(3a (Canada))

I think I was meant to be born in a tropical climate. I pout at my snow covered garden through the window all winter long. I have a major case of tropical climate envy and an annual dose of Christmas tree in my living room would satisfy any yearning for a northern climate if I ever left!!!


    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 8:22PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

It's not like the North is completely deciduous anyway. :)
There is nothing like the boreal forests, and the beautiful stands of hemlock, spruce, fir and pine. They're green all year, regardless of the winter temps.

They're our "tropical greenery" when the deciduous plants go dormant until spring.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 12:21PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

And remember,there are many plants one can grow indoors.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 10:26AM
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For thirty years I lived in the colder world of the north and enjoyed the beauty of its deciduoous forests and beautiful evergreens. I looked forward to every season the north had to offer. Then one day, I went south, and my gardening world has never been the same. Here I plant palms next to oaks, banannas next to holly, with many other uncommon pairings, and the harmony of them all creates a wonderful and peaceful environment. The plants and trees of my garden live side by side and complement each other instead of fighting "the look" of the deciduous or "feel" of the tropics. My garden is unique and always a souce of curiousity and pleasure.
While I understand the zone "purists" and the need to keep a theme in ones surroundings with native plants, remember that many "natives" were brought to you from far away lands by individuals who longed for the "look" of their homes left behind.
The world is many shades of green...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 12:38PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

I can plant "palms next to oaks" and "bananas next to hollies" in New England. Musa basjoo is a hardy banana that is root hardy to at least zone 5. Needle palm is zone 5 hardy, and Sabal minor is hardy in zone 6.

So there. :) heehee...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 4:19PM
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No, no, and no. There are plenty of northern evergreens that are beautiful, full of life, and non-invasive. If I see another Buddleia I am going to consider dumping velvet grass seed in their lawn. B^)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 11:47PM
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I prefer the change of the four seasons. Each has its own beauty:
- spring things 'liven up', trees, flowers, animals all come to life
-summer there is beauty everywhere, flowers, trees, shrubs
-fall there is awesome fall color, sugar maples turn brilliant oranges, yellows and reds
- winter, the lanscape may look barren but if you look closely, evergreens are partly covered in snow and it makes it look like 'icing, their is hoarfrost on tree limbs that looks like art.
Why would I give up all this? Marg

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 9:06AM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

I have to disagree with some of the points you made. First, Florida has several native palm trees. Sabal Palmetto and Royestonia are two of them and they are by far some of the most extensively grown in South Florida. Quercus Virginiana is also native to Florida and so are some varieties of Fig.

Now to get to the question, I only have decidious trees that bear fruit here in my yard, such as plums, apricotts and cherries. Other than those, i have non-native tropicals and palms. But, i can't say i'm excluding natives since we don't have native trees here except for in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, which is a totally different habitat in itself. The San Joaquin Valley only has native trees on the banks of creeks and rivers. I don't think i could live in New England, or any cold climate. I gripe when our temperature drops to 30 degrees. Maybe it's because i've grown up in the Southwest and am totally naive to actual winter.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 10:31PM
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I can't imagine why you would want to give up on such beautiful trees to limit yourself. Seems like the mix would be too cool! I know you said we couldn't have that. So I vote for the decidious. Palms are okay but, no change is boring.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 7:21PM
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