The Gardening Diva
Never be too busy to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.


Planting Trees and Shurbs
By MG Calla Victoria

Rainbow Eucalyptus tree


    I think that I should never see a poem as lovely as a tree.  Trees by Joyce Kilmer 

       Now is the time to plant trees and shrubs in the ground.  As the major growing seasons has culminated, planting now will allow the energy to go down to the roots of trees and shrubs making them big and strong; as opposed to planting other times when the root system has to compete with the bloom-making process which saps most of a plant’s energy.

       Consider carefully what trees you want to plant on your property and their location on said property.  Very large trees like live oaks should not be planted close to the home as their massive root systems can damage the home’s foundation, their constant leaf loss will keep you cleaning the gutter, and their long reach will keep you constantly cutting branches off of your roof.  Also with intense rainfall the roots can become dislodged causing the tree to shift. This happened to one of my neighbors, who had a large magnificent live oak tree in the center of his backyard. After several days of heavy rain and standing water his beautiful oak tree started leaning and damaged part of their roof. At great expense they had to have the tree removed and roof repaired.  Huge trees like live oaks are best far away from the home.  After the remnants of hurricane Patricia blew through last New Orleans, I notice a large live oak that was damaged and crashed into to the roof of a home on a nearby boulevard.  Crews were out chain sawing what was left of that tree.

      By all means pay attention to the care tag on your new tree saplings.  It will give you the mature height of the tree, growth rate, sun exposure, and the mature spread of the tree.  You also need to know if the tree is deciduous (loses its leaves in winter) or evergreen.  If you have a west-facing window that gets too much sun in the summer, that would be the perfect place to plant a deciduous shade tree.  It will give you cover during the summer month, but as it will lose its leaves in the winter, it will allow rays of sunlight through to warm your home during the winter months.  

     Unless you have long cash and are buying mature trees to have placed on your property, you will most likely be buying saplings (small trees that are only about 4-5 feet tall) that look really cute, but know that sapling could get up to 100 feet tall with a spread of 60 feet across. I noticed a neighbor who planted 3 native fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus) sapling in the small horseshoe space adjacent to her arched driveway, which is only about 6 feet from her front door.  Little does she know that fringe trees get 12 to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide, yet she has planted three of them in a very small space. Unfortunately, in a few years there will be some heavy equipment involved, some hard digging, and relocating of at least two, if not all  of those fringe trees at great expense to her simply because she did not properly research the plant material.

         Aside from a tree’s beautiful canopy, shade, and a place to climb or hang swings from; some trees have the added bonus of very unusual trunks.  I love crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) because when their barks exfoliate, usually after the fourth year, and the trunk looks very vascular and almost looks petrified as the plant matures.  Melaleuca trees (Melaleuca quinquenervia), also known as punk trees or paper-bark tea trees, trunks look very flaky as the white bark exfoliates.  But my all-time favorite tree for unusual trunk interest is the Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) tree, featured in the image above.  When you peel off  the bark, what is revealed is a vivid color palette of incredible beauty.  No, that is not some ambitious art project that you are looking at, that tree has not been painted.  I visited the Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Miami with my son a few years ago.  And when we happened upon the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree, I thought that it was some kind of art exhibit, until the tour guide explained that as the tree’s bark exfoliates all of those colors are revealed.  The guide encouraged us to peel away parts of the bark.  The amazing thing was that every piece of the bark we pulled off revealed a different brilliant color.  The Rainbow eucalyptus tree is HUGE and soars to 80 feet in height.  It is a rainforest tree so it needs a tropical climate to survive.

       My all-time favorite scary strange tree has to be the banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis). This monster of a tree has to be the inspiration for those scary movies where the trees come alive at night and walk around trying to catch people. This is a tropical tree, originally from India, but can be found in abundance throughout Florida. Banyan trees can spread over four acres of land, as each aerial root that touches the ground becomes an extension of the tree. To control the spread of the banyan tree, you can trim the roots so they do not touch the ground, as the one featured in this article.

     This article was published in an edition of Data News Weekly.

Check out my “Gardening Tip of the Week.” 

     Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!

Native fringe tree

Crape Myrtle

                                     Melaluca trees

                                Banyan tree

       I took this photo of a banyan tree at Kampong          National Botanical Garden in Miami.

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