The main goal in plant care is to prevent nutritional deficiencies so as to avoid having to respond to them. Palm trees suffering from magnesium deficiency exhibit discolored fronds. / Courtesy Monica Elliott, UF/IFAS

The main goal in plant care is to prevent nutritional deficiencies so as to avoid having to respond to them. Palm trees suffering from magnesium deficiency exhibit discolored fronds. / Courtesy Monica Elliott, UF/IFAS

Week 7’s daylong seminar for my quest to become a Florida master gardener — Florida-Friendly Landscaping — included a segment titled “Landscape Design to Soothe the Urban Soul and to Unite One With Nature.” But after perusing through the accompanying publication with the same name — all 51 pages — I felt anything but “soothed”; it was, after all, the shortest of the three publications we would study that day.

The other two? “Palm Care and Problems” (62 pages) and “Thrifty and Sustainable Florida-Friendly Landscape Design” (81 pages).

Jesse Durko Nursery / Florida-Friendly Landscaping

Our day included a field trip to the Jesse Durko Nursery in Davie, where we saw a variety of ways to liven up a landscape. / Photos by Amanda Gorney

Monica Elliott, Ph.D., is a researcher at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. She stressed the importance of providing proper nutrition for palm trees. After all, the main goal is preventing nutritional deficiencies rather than responding to them. Trees and, indeed, all plants thrive better that way.

Nutrition an important aspect of gardening


One of her segments, “Fertilizing Mixed Landscapes,” discussed a major issue facing Florida gardeners. After all, as she pointed out, in most yards, “All types of plants are growing in same deficient soil; palm and tree roots coexist with turf roots; products applied to turf can be harmful to palms and trees.”

What’s a gardener to do?! Answer: Choose fertilizers carefully. But that raises another question: Which application method is best, by far? Broadcasting (the uniform placement of fertilizer on a surface).

Banding (applying fertilizer in circular bands) reaches only some roots. Two unsatisfactory methods of application are fertigation (injecting nutrients into an irrigation system) and soil injection (placing nutrients below the roots), according to Dr. Elliott.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping to soothe the soul

Akiko Iwata taught the “Landscape Design to Soothe the Urban Soul and Unite One With Nature” segment. A member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, she has designed landscapes for a variety of private homes. She also has created landscapes for resorts around the world, including Indonesia and Japan.

The most basic steps to beginning a landscape design, Ms. Iwata explained, are these: Visit the site; take photos; note the opportunities and constraints that the property offers; note the best view — and the worst one — from the most important spaces. (Of course, the larger and more complex the project, the more steps are involved, including “listen to the client.”)

florida-friendly landscaping / heliconia

The heliconia serves two purposes: It provides color and texture to make a landscape more interesting, and it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

She also covered other topics, such as “plant selection in design” — that is, whether to use native vs. non-native plants — and how to employ colors and textures in a landscape.

Landscaping on the “thrifty”

Then John Pipoly, Ph.D., spoke on “Thrifty and Sustainable Florida-Friendly Landscape Design.” If you want to attract wildlife, said Dr. Pipoly, an urban horticulture extension agent in Broward County, you must provide four things: food, water, a place to raise young, and shelter.

He also summed up his seven basic steps of site analysis:
1. Site drainage;
2. Sun exposure;
3. Wind pattern;
4. Species you wish to attract;
5. Area vegetation types;
6. Geological features and soils;
7. Wildlife already present.

We ended our day with a visit to Jesse Durko Nursery in Davie — a colorful, placid refuge amidst the hustle and bustle of western Broward County.