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If you could plant this, would you??

Posted by FLneedsTREES 9b or 10a (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 4, 05 at 10:55

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.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: If you could plant this, would you??

No I wouldn't, and since I spent a decade on the central coast of California, I feel I have some perspective. Yes, most trees and shrubs are naked to the cold and flower gardens are only memories, but winter is hardly dull and lifeless. Granted, if you are an outdoor person, as most gardeners are, its hard to be confined indoors during bad weather, but there are other options than shorts and flip-flops. And don't downplay the pleasure of dreaming; and with garden work at a minimum, there is plenty of time for that. Check us out in the morning as you drive by, and there we'll be. As soon as the first bulbs start to push up in January, we're already counting the blossoms.

It's true that our winters can be a bit long, December into March, and we can't safely put our coats away until May, but signs of spring have been everywhere since late fall. How heavy are the witch hazel flower clusters, what about the dogwoods? By the time April arrives, and spring's pace quickens, we can only be amazed. We think we remember how it is, but the truth is we have only the vaguest notion. Our memories are merely shadows. Reality is so much better.
This is not just true for spring, but also true for summer and fall. And no two years are the same.

I guess you understand my opinion. If I lived in Florida, I like to think I'd love that too. And one of these years I'll be trying one of those marginally hardy palms, beyond that I'll keep the rest of the tropics on my back porch.


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RE: If you could plant this, would you??

I agree with you that a noticeable change of season in the garden via deciduous tree and shrub plantings is necessary. If tropical plants and palms could survive a winter up north, I imagine most northern gardeners would be thrilled that they wouldn't have to worry about overwintering such tropicals in their homes. The awakening of all the trees and shrubs in late winter/early spring is such a joy to gardeners, and quite something to look forward to after a long cold winter. It makes you appreciate green things so much more. I think the people in the warmer parts of Florida are missing out on that aspect of gardening.


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Plant a palm!!!

Either choice is an extreme. Public plantings suffer from a boring 'sameness' almost anywhere in the country. My garden includes deciduous sp., conifers, and plenty of broad leaved evergreens including cold tolerant palms and Evergreen oaks. I've planted palms in several sheltered sites on public property. The shrubby fan palms and small Trachycarpus will never make N.J. look like Florida, but do add a nice touch. Actually the cold tolerant fan palms are Southern natives. Red Maple is a good shade tree, but it is extremely difficult to garden in the dry, rooty shade of one. What is needed, in my opinion, is variety. This makes for good horticulture and good ecology.


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RE: If you could plant this, would you??

Yes, I think the biggest issue is variety. There's very little creativity in the use of any plants. Even out of state, I thought it was beautiful but when you see it everywhere, it does get boring after a while I suppose. I know florida has the ability to provide the best of both worlds but there's not much awareness that variety is possible. Thanks for the responses!


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RE: If you could plant this, would you??

From and ecological perspective, I certainly would not plant them, nor any exotic, that could become invasive. This can upset the ecological balance of the are, for example like chinese wistera and purple loostrife, both beautiful, but very out of control.

Another reason is that due to over developement, native habitat is losing ground. So replantings should be an attempt to replace lost native vegetation. The wildlife depend on it for food and shelter. Pests are another issue. Our American chestnut population was decimated due to an exoctic chestnut that carried disease that wiped out the native, while the exotic thrived.


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