Gardening: Spring blooms in Southwest Florida
There are many flowering shrubs and trees either in bloom or just beginning to bloom right now around Marco Island. Several people have asked me about the pretty pink trees blooming in the medians.
The Tabebuia heterophylla or pink tabebuia is a variety that will grow to 50 feet and so needs plenty of room. There is also a dwarf variety, T. bahamensis which will only grow to seven feet. This is the variety you see blooming right now in the medians. Most landscapes are too small for the larger variety so be sure what you are buying.
The Tabebuia caraiba is a beautiful, yellow tree also blooming along our streets. They grow to 25 feet in height and have a compact, upright habit of growth making them a good choice when space is limited. The tree is deciduous in winter and will make quite a mess while losing its leaves. The reward is the bell shaped, yellow flower produced in profuse clusters before the new foliage forms. They prefer full sun, average moisture and good drainage. No pests bother this tree.
The Hong Kong Orchid tree has an orchid like flower six inches wide and rose-purple in color. The flower has a delightful scent which fills the air around the tree. They are an open, spreading shade tree which will grow to 35 or 40 feet in height with a 30-foot spread. The tree is evergreen but loses some leaves when in bloom. They prefer full sun, moist to semi-moist, well-drained soil conditions. There is also a pure white flowered variety, B. purpurea candida, which they have planted along with the pink tabs in the medians.
The frangipani plumeria is also getting ready to flower. This is another fragrant tree which fills the air with a nice, light scent. The flower is used to make the Hawaiian lei. They are a small broad crowned tree which will grow to 20 feet in height with a 15- to 20-foot spread. The flowers come in yellow, pink or white. They lose their leaves in the fall although there is a variety that does not defoliate. The stiff, thick branches are interesting with no foliage until they begin to flower in spring and summer. Full sun is best with rich, moist loam.
The confederate jasmine is a woody vine with pure white, one-inch fragrant flowers. They will grow to 20 feet if supported with arbors or trellises. This vine can also be trained in espalier fashion. The Jasmine Minima is a dwarf ground cover variety and lacks the fragrant flowers. San Marco Villas on San Marco Road has beds of the confederate jasmine throughout the front landscaping. You can smell it in the air when you drive by.
The gardenia is a rounded shrub which will grow to eight feet tall by six feet wide. They produce handsome, white flowers up to five inches wide in the spring and early summer. The gardenia is valued especially for its fragrance. They prefer sunny locations with fertile soil and good moisture. Pests which attack the gardenia are aphids, scales, mealybugs, white fly and nematodes. It is best to by grafted stock.
The Bougainvillea is also entering the height of its flowering season. It has had a setback because of the desiccating winds of past winter storms. Look more closely if your bougainvillea looks dead on the one or more sides. If you see the new leaves already emerging leave it alone and it will begin flowering before you know it. The various reds and purples of this plant are bright spots in the landscape. They have an upright, sucker growth which will add several feet to the shrub each season. They are a very thorny stemmed plant. A less thorny species has the rose red flower bracts. A dwarf variety has a low compact growth habit. The bougainvillea thrives best in full sun with normal watering. They won't flower as well when planted in a moist soil or shady location. This is another plant suitable for espalier, arbors or even climbing trees. They are also good for use in pots.
These are just some of the flowering shrubs and trees which help to make Marco a colorful place to be in the spring.
Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413. Read past columns at marconews.com.