A couple weeks ago my wife and I had an opportunity to travel through several areas of our beautiful state.
We decided to leave town for a couple of days and we headed to some uncharted areas of north Florida. We visited a very quaint town called Keystone Heights. Keystone Heights is located about 35 minutes north of Gainesville and is almost due west of St. Augustine. It's amazing how only a four-hour drive can change the entire landscape.
I think the first thing I noticed as we drove north was that we saw less and less palm trees and more pine and oak. This is especially true in the small rural communities that dot the landscape. Along many of the rural roads that we had to travel to get to our destination, wildflowers were in full bloom and added a breathtaking touch of color to the landscape. We saw plenty of wild petunia, periwinkle and aster.
In many of the landscapes of people's homes we observed dogwood trees and plenty of oaks. The many small ponds and creeks were brimming with water lilies and lotus lilies.
Our trip home was just as exciting as we decided to stop at Silver Springs in Ocala. This was indeed a pleasurable experience. Along with the glass bottom boats that it is most famous for, the park boasts acres of colorful walkways. You can find almost any flower imaginable from the more common impatience or marigold to the more exotic varieties such as coco plum, sable palms (our state tree) and Australian tree fern. It is truly a plant lover's paradise.
The final leg of our journey took us through the picturesque Ocala National Forest. This is one of the most scenic drives in the state with native trees and wildflowers in full bloom along most of the drive.
Did I mention the road has hills? Yes real hills, something we don't see much of in our area.
To get the Ocala National Forest take I-95 north into Brevard County then take highway 40 west towards Ocala. It will indeed be a pleasurable experience!
Getting back to home, I am going to talk about Gerber daisies. Unlike many of the other varieties of daisies, Gerber daisies can provide a summer full of color. They do well in a sunny location, but will require daily watering during the hotter summer months to prevent wilting.
Gerber daisies also do very well in containers on a patio or sunny porch. Although they are perennials in Florida, they can be grown as annuals in other parts of the country and can even be grown indoors in a sunny window.
When you are shopping for your colorful treasures, don't pick the flowers with the most open blooms but rather choose the ones that have plenty of buds. This will ensure a longer bloom cycle. It is a good idea to pinch the spent flowers off the plant as this will help to promote new blooms. The flowers of the Gerber daisy are great for making cuttings for your favorite flower vase.
You should plant your colorful gems in well-drained soil in a sunny location. As noted earlier, you will need to water your plants daily and sometimes twice a day during the hot summer months. You should also feed your plants once a week with a good all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer.
With a little care and TLC, this is one plant that will give you many weeks of rewarding color.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.